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.

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