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Rodney, you plonker! - Asda and Tesco caught in Del Boy scheme

20th Aug 2012
Contributor MyCustomer.com
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Supermarket giants Tesco and Asda have been caught selling bottled tap water to customers.

Sat on the shelves alongside mineral water brands such as Evian and Perrier, Tesco's Everyday Value Still Water and Asda's Smartprice water is just 17p a litre - a 2,500% mark-up for water bottled from the mains and filtered.  

Is any of this sounding familiar to you?  

When questioned by the Daily Mail, a Tesco spokesperson first claimed the water originated from France but was "bottled in the UK - I think somewhere in the Midlands" before later admitting that it comes from the mains tap. According to the firm, it's justification for failing to label the product 'tap water' is because it filters the water to remove chlorine and "other impurities", and is therefore not tap water.  

Asda also confirmed to the paper that its Smartprice water is filtered mains water, arguing that the company is providing customers with a cheaper service than if they were to filter the water from the tap themselves. 

An Asda spokesperson said: ‘Our two-litre bottle is 17p. For comparison – if a customer bought a Brita water filter jug at £16 and used it for the recommended 40 gallons, it would cost 21p to produce two litres of filtered water. We’re saving our customers time and money – as well as providing a container."

Consumer groups and trade bodies have slammed the supermarkets for the money-making scheme. Jeanette Longfield from ethical food group Sustain said: "When people are struggling with their grocery bills the last thing they need is to be ripped off by eye-watering mark-ups and misleading labelling."

Surprisingly, Daily Mail readers don't seem too bothered by the revelation. Liam Stirling argues that instead of using a Britta filter, customers should buy "cheap water" instead whilst Richard Moore-Elphick says: "If you see what goes on when water repairs are carried out you would never drink tap water again."

But having read the story, all I can think of is brand reputation. Unlike Daily Mail readers, Facebook members are not so accommodating.

Barney Darnell posted on the Tesco brand page: "You have fallen to a new low in my eyes. All these years ive been buying your bottled water and now it comes out you have been conning us as it turns out to be flipping tap water. How could you sink so low. Its not about caring for your customers any more, its all about greed and how much profit you can get for yourselfs. You are contemptable and the government should impose massive fines on you its disgusting what you have been doing and youi should be ashamed of yourselves."[sic]

Whilst the supermarket giants hardly have much of an ethical reputation, it'll be interesting to see whether this stunt will result in a loss of consumer trust and how both stores handle any backlash. 

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