Splitting multipacks and selling items separately

We regularly receive complaints from members of the public that a shop is illegally splitting a multipack and selling the items separately.

It is not illegal to split multipacks per se  but the product must be labelled and priced correctly.

Let us consider a simple example:

John the corner shop owner buys a 10 pack of cola for £6 from the wholesaler.

The multipack already has a price on it saying £6 for all 10 cans and each can already has a price 60p of printed onto it. Each can also has ‘multipack – not for individual sale’ printed on it.

John wants to split the multipack and sell each can for 80p.

The main points are:

  1. Once John has bought the 10 can multi pack it is his product and he can split and sell the product however he likes. If the manufacturer doesn’t like it then they may choose not to sell their product to him in the future.
  • The individual cans can be sold at any price and do not have to be at the 60p already printed on the can. It is up to the business and customer to agree on a price. So John can sell each can for 80p as long as he prices the product clearly. I would therefore expect a sticker of 80p over the 60p on the can or a clear sign to next to the cans to say they cost 80p and not the 60p printed on the can. There is no requirement to disclose the price he bought it for.
  • Some products – particularly food – have to have certain information on the label – such as the name of the product, ingredients and a use by or best before date. Often manufacturers will put all of this information on the outside packaging of a multipack so that if you split the multipack the information is not on each individual item. Technically the items without proper labelling on the actual packaging that the customer takes away should not be sold on their own.
  • That said, if it is a well known product which has a long shelf life (i.e. not past a use by day) and everyone knows what they are getting then it is not something Trading Standards (in my experience anyway) would get too excited about – there are more important things we could be focussing on. The only major issue might be the lack of allergy information, which means that the food product could cause someone to become ill – but as I say it depends on what the product is. For example, most people know what is in cola – so I doubt it constitutes much of an allergy risk

As a consumer you might feel the shop is ripping you off if they are selling for a higher price that what is already on the product – but from a legal point of that is irrelevant. You as the consumer can make the decision on whether to buy the product or not as long as the price is clearly drawn to your attention before you buy.

If a business is splitting multi packs without the required food labelling then they MAY be told to take it off sale – depending on the resourcing at the local Trading Standards.

32 Replies to “Splitting multipacks and selling items separately”

  1. My local shop is splitting multipacks and selling them at whatever price they want go in two days in a row pay two different prices for same juice?????

    • They can price at any price they want to as long as it is clear.

  2. Hi is a local shop allowed to open a multi pack (let’s say 24) of toilet paper and sell them in a repacked four roll bag that they have done themselves

      • I have bought individual ice lolly from Nisa after reading the back of the wrapper it states not to be sold individually there was no price label on item or shelf and the shop assistant was clueless about price and made it from his head, is this legal?

  3. My local shop are selling cans of coke for 79p not priced like the normal ones at 79p and clearly says multipack not to be sold separately normally there cans are priced 79p on the can already so that’s what you pay but no sticker or any pricing just charched 79p for a multipack can is this correct

    • They cna charge what they link but the price needs to be clear. They can override the price on the can with their own label.

  4. I think it is right and proper that once a multipack is bought by a purchaser that it becomes their property do do with as they please. Obviously if the manufacturer has been criminally negligent in not printing allergy warnings and use by dates on each and every packet a subsequent seller should copy the outer packaging’s warming’s onto their own labels and attach them to the items from the multipack. Furthermore it should be illegal for the original manufacturers not to print this information on every pack. The final consumer of, day, a Magnum lolly is unlikely to ask to see the outer pack, but might notice the bold warning that it contains nuts as they excitedly open the wrapper – especially is said consumer is a 5 year old that can read “nuts” because his life depends on it, but is bored when he sees “NOT TO BE SOLD SEPARATELY” in twenty languages occupying a third of the pack’s area.

    • The pack and it’s contents count as one product. Whether each item inside the pack is individually wrapped or not is irrelevant, so as long as all the information is on the outer packaging, it doesn’t matter about any inner packaging.

      If a retailer has gone against the warnings not to sell a pack’s contents individually, that’s on the seller not the manufacturer.

  5. I think its wrong that people can buy cheaper multipacks then sell them for a profit, I have just received a ‘chocolate package’ from my son and most of it is multipack ,I don’t want to upset him by asking how much he paid but it has to be above the asking price. This is not fair on the purchaser

    • I’m not sure I agree. Generally if someone splits a multi pack to sell its because it works out cheaper to buy them that way rather than wholesale. In my work we stock a vending machine with cans from multipacks because they work out at around 50p each, whereas they would cost 70p if we bought them wholesale. We would make less money and would have to charge more if we didn’t. Overall the “not to be sold separately” labels are less about protecting consumers, and more about manufacturers trying to protect their margins.

    • Shirley, how do you think businesses make profit? It they sold at the same price as they bought it, they wouldn’t be in business very long. They have costs to cover. They offer something to the customer which the customer can choose to buy or not.

    • You think it’s wrong, but that’s essentially what Tesco does when it buys a pallet of 1000 chocolate bars from Mondelez; Tesco is then selling each one for profit. There’s no moral (or indeed legal) reason why a local shop can’t do this on a smaller scale.

    • Are you stupid? How do you think a business runs. They buys items in order to sell at a higher price.

  6. My local shop is selling split multi packs at an outrageous price!
    The sell by date isn’t on the items, must be on the original packaging.
    I refuse to buy split multi pack items, if everyone refused to buy them then the greedy shop keepers would stop this practice.
    I still think it’s mad that its written in big capital letters that the items are part of a multi pack and not to be sold separately yet it’s perfectly legal?.?

    • Yorkie bars say “It’s not for girls” in big writing too. Should it also be illegal to sell it to or for a girl to eat it? The writing on the wrapper about multipacks has no basis in law, it’s what the manufacturer puts on it, however there is no law or rule about it. Thank god your favourite chocolate bar doesn’t ask you to stick it up your bum first or I’m sure you’d be doing life in prison!!

  7. My daughter bought 4 drinks for £4 ,the corner shop wants £10 for 4 all bought from same place just corner shop can charge what they want even if they have multi pack on them definitely not right

    • Yes they can charge whatever they want as long as its clear what the price is.

    • They can charge what they want and you are free to look at the price and decide if or if not to buy the item.

  8. if on the back of a packet of individually wrapped biscuits packed as a pack of 9 – it has the number within the pack (9) in the name on the back, the weight of the individual components in the nutrition table per biscuit 19g and the overall combined weight of 173g all visible on the back of the packet is this ok ? or should it be written as 173g (9x19g)

  9. Can a restaurant sell drinks with the rrp on the can for a higher price? The drinks weren’t from a multipack but they had an rrp of £1.35 on them and the restaurant charged £3.

  10. Have any of you guys got any knowledge of food legislation at all? Is this a ‘trading standards blog’ or ‘what do you think Jo Blog’?

    A manufacturer will label the unit of sale. If that’s a multipack the mandatory info will be on the ‘outer’ because that’s where it is obliged to be. It doesn’t have to be on the inner (because no one should be seeing that when they make a purchase decision). Someone above saying that this is criminally negligent has no idea what they are talking about. Utter tosh.
    If a retailer splits a pack and the inners do not have mandatory info on – the retailer is responsible and is (at least) in breach of the food information to consumers regulation.
    So it may be legal (if the retailer has stand alone artworks on the inner) – or it may not (if the inners were specifically designed to be sold in a multipack).

    RRP. Note R stands for recommended (not obligate). Manufacturers recommend prices, retailers set them (otherwise it is price fixing).

  11. A shop is selling individally “not for resale” lucazades which is split from multi packs. Pricing them at £1.59. No price on the bottle but its got the lable underneath saying the price of £1.59. Just want to clear this cleared up as they are natrually £1.19 or 2 for £2.20.

  12. I am a retailer, and often split multipack cans of Coke to sell separately. This is not done to directly increase my profits it is done so I can sell the item for a little less than I could if I only bought the retail packs.
    At present I can sell retail cans of Coke for £0.89 each or multipack cans at £0.69 I still make £0.20 a can ether way I just sell more if I have split the multipacks
    With Coke the only information that is missing from multipack cans is a barcode I place a sticker over this area with my store address and clearly stating it is from a multi pack.
    I also have a bargain bin with sweets chocolates where I split multipacks and price everything at £0.35 a bar or 4 for £1.19. This is placed in the same shelf as my full multipacks that sell for £1.19 a pack. Not many customers can afford to buy 4 full multipacks so this gives better variety for the same money.
    As a retailer it is my job to make money but as a person you have to think about the customer especially in low income areas.
    A note to retailers that do split multipacks and charge full RRP shame on you!!!

  13. Its very simple. Like if you go to burger shop or van (Mcdonald or burger&Chip shop). What do they do to serve you one burger. They take burn & burger from multipack. Where we still eat happily without any complaint. Hope that will make sense for who can not understand what trading standard trying to say. Thank you.

  14. Some own-brand and cheaper cola versions have “barley” which is a common allergen for those who are gluten-free / coeliac so this would be required.