ABC show accuses Aldi of breaking consumer law with 'special buys'

Aldi's Special Buys is under fire.

Aldi has grown to become one of the world’s most popular and successful supermarkets, thanks to its low prices and varied stock. 

However, there’s one downside that customers have long complained about – the limited ‘special buys stock that each store usually has. Now, the ABC’s The Checkout TV show has questioned if the advertising Aldi uses for its special-buys products is actually a breach of consumer law.

It’s possible to buy anything from gardening and DIY equipment, through to ski gear and even musical instruments in the store’s product promotion. They’re usually advertised through leaflets and sometimes television ads, with fine print confirming there is limited stock.

The slashed prices can cause a flood of demand from consumers, but many claim there’s simply not enough stock – that a reasonable person’s interpretation of what “limited stock” means is not what the amount Aldi actually stocks. Critics have pointed out many instances in which Aldi allegedly had just one of the special-buys items in each store.  The Checkout has now put the promotion’s advertising under scrutiny – and claims it’s actually in breach of Australian consumer law.

One mother appeared on the show to explain she had seen an ad for leather shoes as part of Aldi’s Back to School Special Buys offers. The woman and her daughter reportedly visited seven stores in one morning – and every single one was sold out. She discovered later that each store only had one size of each shoe in stock, The Checkout reported.

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Aldi admitted to The Checkout that stock in this area was “not allocated in an optimal manner” but insisted that it complied with Australian consumer law. It added: “We failed to match demand of size and colour variants in a small selection of stores. We do feel we complied with Section 35 of Australian Consumer Law.” That prompted The Checkout host Scott Abbot to joke: “Well, we feel differently.”

Meanwhile, according to the show, in 2017 children’s ride-on tractors and cars were on sale, but there was only one of each in store. A sale last year of Xbox packages also infuriated shoppers who’d lined up for hours to purchase, only to find that some stores had only one or two in stock and other stores that had greater numbers of the product allowed some shoppers to buy multiple packages.

According to section 35 of Australian Consumer Law, it’s a breach of the law to advertise discounted products where they are “not available in reasonable quantities and for a reasonable period at that price”.

Aldi does make it clear there is limited stock in its fine print, but the show has accused the store of making the print just too fine. The text on brochures usually reads: “While stocks last. Please note stocks are limited and will vary between stores” and adds that “despite our careful planning we apologise if selected stocks may sell out on the first day, due to unexpectedly high demand”.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission states any information on the nature of the advert, and if stocks are limited, should be “clear and prominent”.

In December, customers rushed to their local stores for low prices on Dyson vacuums, but they were reportedly sold out in just seconds.

An Aldi spokesperson told Starts at 60: “Driving demand and disappointing customers by not supplying enough stock is categorically not part of our business model. We are a retailer and we are in the business of selling as many products as we can. On occasions, our products are in high demand and sell-out faster than anticipated. In our business, this is not a win.

“We would always prefer to correctly balance the demand with the supply of stock and we consistently strive to achieve this balance.”

Have you struggled to get hold of stock as part of Aldi’s Special Buys?