Last week I stopped at services and ordered in Costa two coffees. One Caramel Cappuccino (£3.89) and one Speciality Vanilla (£3.99). When I got to pay and bill was £8.18 I figured something must have gone wrong since it should not exceed £8. It turns out they have charged me Cappuccino (£3.59) + Caramel (£0.50) and another Cappuccino (£3.59) + Vanilla (£0.50) that totalled up to £8.18. enter image description here

I then asked is there a difference in preparation of drinks (Caramel Cappuccino vs Cappuccino + Caramel and Speciality Vanilla vs Cappuccino + Vanilla), and there was no difference, they are exactly same drink that are being charged differently depending on how cashier feels like.

Are they allowed by law to charge different prices for same things?

  • 2
    The staff in Costa (I won't dignify them with the term "barista" since they generally don't qualify, anyone who - like in my local Costa - pronounces to espresso with an 'x' doesn't deserve the title) aren't the greatest at logical thinking. They have a tendency of overcharging me for a triple espresso - reasoning it as a double and a single, rather than a double with an extra shot. What's on the till doesn't always clearly match what's on the board as far as drinks go - so it's possibly just a misunderstanding on their part - if you challenge them they should rectify it. Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 13:22
  • @GeoffAtkins precisely my point there ether is a gap in regulations that allows companies to do this sort of stuff or they must be breaking the law.
    – pom
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 13:38
  • 1
    @MatasVaitkevicius - IANAL, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were playing on an ambiguity. Considering the small amounts in question, I doubt the matter has ever been tested in court. Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 13:39

2 Answers 2


In common law contract law, the price tag or posted price is only an invitation to treat. The offer and acceptance of the offer happen at the cash register. You are free to back out of the deal when you become aware of the higher price at the register.

Barring a consumer protection law that forces vendors to honour listed prices, common law contract law applies.

It is hard to prove a negative and I have limited exposure to UK law, but these two articles lead me to believe that the UK doesn't have a law requiring vendors to honour posted prices:

If an item is priced incorrectly on the shelf, or scans at the wrong price at the till, retailers are under no obligation to honour it, under the Sale of Goods Act.

price tag is not a contract. It is an "invitation to treat" ie it is inviting the customer to make an offer to purchase and the retailer doesn't have to accept that offer. A contract is only formed when the shop accepts a payment

  • However, if they don't fix the advertised price when they are told about it, they can get into hot water for intentionally misleading customers. So if you return an hour later and find the lower advertised price unchanged, and they still refuse, you can call your local Trading Standards office and complain.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 23:58

I don't think there is any law that forbids anyone to sell the same good under two different names or even under the same name under different prices.

In your case, you ordered a Caramel Cappuccino for £3.89, but you were served a Cappuccino for £3.59 plus Caramel for £0.50. It is perfectly legal for the shop to try to sell you the more expensive product.

However, you made an "invitation to trade" by ordering the Caramel Cappuccino. The store rejected your "invitation to trade" by offering you a Cappuccino plus Caramel. You are perfectly in your rights to reject their "invitation to trade".

You can either walk away, or order something entirely different, or repeat your initial order for a Caramel Cappuccino. In the first two cases, they end up out of pocket which might teach them to stop this practice if more people do that.

If you notice this practice repeatedly after you tell them about it then they are likely trying to mislead customers and you need to call Trading Standards.

  • Do you think this could be seen as violation of regulation 5(4)(g) of the CPRs prohibits traders from misleading consumers about the price of a product, or the manner in which the price is calculated, • regulation 5(4)(h) prohibits traders from misleading consumers as to the existence of a specific price advantage, and • regulations 6(4)(d) and (e) prohibit the omission, in any case of an invitation to purchase, ..., gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/…
    – pom
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 8:17

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