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Aldi Special Buys called out as illegal bait advertising

It's not uncommon for avid Aldi fans to go home disappointed on Saturday mornings.

Aldi special buy
Last updated: 15 September 2014


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Need to know

  • Aldi Special Buys accused of contravening Australian Consumer Law
  • Some stores hold as little as two Special Buys in stock
  • ACCC says bait advertising can be misleading

Aldi's practice of selling cheap Special Buy products in limited stock could be in jeopardy as a consumer affairs program accuses the supermarket chain of bait advertising.

Dozens of customers queue up on Wednesdays and Saturdays when the supermarket offers discounted one-off products, sometimes less than a handful per store.

An upcoming episode of The Checkout is calling Aldi out on this practice, claiming it constitutes 'bait advertising', and therefore violates section 35 of Australian Consumer Law.

A Melbourne woman named Marie recounted her disappointment when she went to seven different Aldi stores before 11am one morning, as she tried to buy her daughter new school shoes.

"When I asked, all of [the stores] said they only got one of each style shoe in each size," she says.

The Checkout asked Aldi why it promoted the school shoes in its Special Buys brochure when it had such little stock.

"In the area of Casey [Marie's local area], stock was not allocated in an optimal manner. Optimal is another word for we failed to match demand of colour and size variants in a small selection of stores," the company says.

"We do feel that we comply with section 35 of the Consumer Law."

But Marie's example is one of many incidents where queuing customers went home empty-handed due to a shortage of stock.

Last month a rocking chair sold out within one minute from an Aldi store in Sydney. More than 50 people lined up hoping to buy the chair, but the store only had eight in stock.

Dyson stick vacuum cleaners sold out even quicker in some stores late last year. Disgruntled customers took to Twitter saying only a handful of the vacuum cleaners were available at each store.

Then there were the children's cars being sold at Aldi for $199 in September 2017. But each store only had one or two of them in stock.

The Checkout says the conduct amounts to bait advertising, a practice where typically on-sale products are advertised despite having limited or no stock.

CHOICE asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about Aldi's Special Buy practices. The competition watchdog says it "cannot comment on complaints or potential investigations regarding a specific business".

The ACCC's website notes bait advertising is not misleading if "the business is upfront in a highly visible, clear and specific manner about the particular product 'on sale' being in short supply or on sale for a limited time".

But Aldi apologises preemptively in the fine print of its brochures, noting its Special Buy products are available while stocks last.

"Please note stocks are limited and will vary between stores," says the fine print. "Despite our careful planning we apologise if selected stock may sell out on the first day, due to unexpectedly high demand."

The ACCC website states consumers have a right to a replacement in cases where an on-sale product is in short supply.

"If there is not a reasonable chance the offer will be available at the advertised price, you may be in breach of the ACL unless you promptly offer a 'rain check', an acceptable substitute product or take other corrective action."

The Checkout will air the episode examining Aldi's Special Buys at 8pm on 20 February 2018.

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Stock images: Getty unless otherwise stated.