Supermarket price displays and the rules on getting them wrong

Are shops and supermarkets obliged to sell products at the advertised price? Here is an overview of the rules that apply in Germany to getting price displays wrong. 

Supermarket price displays and the rules on getting them wrong ©-ferkelraggae-Fotolia-Fotolia_31081868_XS

Supermarket price displays and the rules on getting them wrong ©-ferkelraggae-Fotolia-Fotolia_31081868_XS

Supermarket price displays

Consumers often complain of having seen a bargain in a supermarket, only to find at the checkout that the price displayed was incorrect. Usually the advertised price is too low and the consumer is shocked to find the desired product actually costs more than thought.

What are your rights if this happens to you? Are consumers entitled to buy the product at the lower price?

No right to reduced price?

It can often occur that supermarkets display incorrect prices. The offer from last week, for example, may have already expired, meaning that at the checkout, the customer is asked to pay the full price for the item.

Unfortunately, if the consumer really wants the product, they will have to pay the higher price.

Invitation to treat

The lower advertised price is not binding because an advertised price in a shop or supermarket is a so-called „invitation to treat“. In other words, the advertised price is an invitation to the consumer to make an offer. The actual contract for the purchase of goods, which must always contain a binding offer and binding acceptance, is concluded at the checkout.

So in actual fact, the consumer makes an offer at the checkout, which the supermarket or trader is free to accept or not. If a supermarket is only willing to receive the higher amount for a product, the consumer’s lower price offer is not accepted, and a contract has not been concluded.


It might be the case that a consumer pays the full price without noticing that their lower price offer has not been accepted.

In this situation, the consumer has made a mistake and is entitled to rescind the contract. The contract would then be declared void. Any performance or benefits received by either party must then be returned. This means that the consumer must return the goods and the supermarket must return the money.

If the consumer only notices the mistake after consuming the product, there is no possibility of returning the product. In this case the consumer would generally have to pay an amount to cover the loss of the product.

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Christian Solmecke ist Partner der Kanzlei WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE und inbesondere in den Bereichen des IT-, des Medien- und des Internetrechts tätig. Darüber hinaus ist er Autor zahlreicher juristischer Fachveröffentlichungen in diesen Bereichen.

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