U.K. Watchdog Questions Online Grocers' Prices

LONDON - Supermarket groups in the United Kingdom are being forced to defend their online prices after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) here said it was investigating
allegations of overcharging.

The government consumer watchdog agency has reportedly questioned the operators of several supermarket Web sites, including J Sainsbury, Tesco, and Wal-Mart-owned Asda.

The probe came after customers complained that food prices were higher online than in stores, they were charged for premium products when they received regular items, and
Web sites were being used to dispose of fresh goods close to their sell-by dates.

According to a report in the Financial Times, customers are also angry about the practice of shipping "substitutes" for out-of-stock items that have already been paid for.

Asda said that while it had held a meeting with the OFT to discuss concerns, there was no difference between its online and in-store prices.

Tesco confirmed that the OFT had contacted the supermarket "on a fairly technical issue" a few weeks ago, and also denied that its grocery Web site overcharged customers.

Sainsbury said that fresh foods close to their sell-by date would not be included in online deliveries.
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