'Never Knowingly Undersold' called into question by investigation

A consumer investigation has called into question John Lewis's famous '˜Never Knowingly Undersold' policy, after the store failed to reduce the prices of a wide range of products it was aware were being sold cheaper elsewhere.

John Lewis promises to price match goods which are cheaper elsewhere

The high street stalwart did not drop its advertised prices on 15 out of 16 products it was informed were being sold for less by rivals - even though it agreed to pay out individual price match refunds, Moneysavingexpert.com claimed.

As part of its ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ price pledge, John Lewis says that if high street competitors are selling the “same individual product, sold with the same service conditions, at a lower price”, it will match it in its shops and online.

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Researchers from the consumer website purchased a range of different items, all of which were cheaper elsewhere, over two consecutive days in March, from a number of different John Lewis stores and its website.

After the purchase, they monitored the price of 16 items it had agreed to issue price match refunds on - therefore accepting its price had been undercut. Prices online and in a selection of John Lewis stores were checked, but the store had only cut the cost of one of the items over the next seven days. Even 14 days after purchase, researchers found that John Lewis was still being undercut on 10 of the original items.

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: “John Lewis is a rightly much-loved store. It prides itself on its service and claim to be ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’. Yet while its service is generally right up there, our research shows John Lewis is not always the champion of price it wants people to think it is.

“The failure was not limited to a few items, which could have been put down to just having a bad day - it was well over 90 per cent of them. Some of these are due to its processes simply not working, others due to its ‘eight mile’ policy - that effectively says it will give individuals who ask a refund, but keep the price higher, and only reduce it for others who ask.”

A spokeswoman for John Lewis said that the company has a “dedicated price-monitoring team” which proactively checks the prices of branded products at its high street competitors every day.

She said: “Never Knowingly Undersold is at the heart of everything we do and we are disappointed that MoneySavingExpert focused on a small number of specific examples rather than the millions of prices that we lower each year. We will look at the detail of their report to see where we can make improvements for our customers in either our processes or communications on the website.”