John Lewis IS ‘knowingly undersold’ investigation reveals the high street giant knew goods were cheaper but didn’t cut prices


Cutting your costs, fighting your corner


John Lewis IS ‘knowingly undersold’ investigation reveals the high street giant knew goods were cheaper but didn’t cut prices

The results of an investigation by the UK’s largest consumer help site calls into question John Lewis's famous 'Never Knowingly Undersold' policy, after the store failed to reduce the prices of a wide range of products it was aware were being sold cheaper elsewhere.

The High Street stalwart did not drop its advertised prices on 15 out of 16 products it was informed were being sold for less by rivals - even though it agreed to pay out individual price match refunds. These included goods sold by major chains such as Tesco Direct and Toys R Us.

As part of its 'Never Knowingly Undersold' price pledge, John Lewis promises: "If we find that [high street competitors] are selling the same individual product, sold with the same service conditions, at a lower price, we'll meet that price in our shops and at"

To test this, our researchers purchased a range of different items, all of which were cheaper elsewhere, over two consecutive days in March, from a number of different John Lewis stores and its website. For example, we bought a Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A2 portable bluetooth speaker, which was sold for £299.95 by John Lewis but £239 by a competitor.

After the purchase, we monitored the price of 16 items it had agreed to issue price match refunds on - therefore accepting its price had been undercut. We checked prices online and in a selection of John Lewis stores, but it only cut the price of one of the items over the next seven days (it or its competitor was out of stock on three items, though while these items were still in stock, John Lewis hadn't dropped its price).

Even when we did a final check of 14 days after purchase, John Lewis was STILL being undercut on 10 of the original items (it or its competitor was out of stock on four items, and a competitor's price had risen on the remaining item).

We asked John Lewis to explain why it had failed to reduce prices on so many products. It admitted a good chunk of the products had simply been missed by its "dedicated price-monitoring team", though argued other price matches were approved for individuals but the store prices on these items had not been dropped because competitor stores were not within eight miles - something it doesn't make clear on the main page on its website explaining the policy. It says it is now "reviewing its communications to ensure its policy is absolutely clear".

Martin Lewis, founder of, said: "John Lewis is a rightly much-loved store. It prides itself on its service and claim to be ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’.

"Yet while its service is generally right up there, our research shows John Lewis is not always the champion of price it wants people to think it is. After all, if it is agreeing to reduce prices because they qualify for its price match as they are cheaper elsewhere, and then continues to sell the same goods at the higher price to everyone else, it knows that it is being undersold elsewhere.

"The failure was not limited to a few items, which could have been put down to just having a bad day - it was well over 90% of them. Some of these are due to its processes simply not working, others due to its 'eight mile' policy - that effectively says it'll give individuals who ask a refund, but keep the price higher, and only reduce it for others who ask. If John Lewis wants to tout its 'Never Knowingly Undersold' catchphrase, it should put up or shut up, or it risks losing its great reputation.”

For full information including details of the research methodology, John Lewis’s policy, its full response and exact items bought, go to


For more comments, information or interview requests please contact:

Katie Watts

Tel: 020 3846 2631

Mob: 07875 415 378

About is dedicated to cutting consumers’ bills and fighting their corner. The free-to-use consumer finance help resource aims to show people how to save money on anything and everything, and campaigns for financial justice. It was set up in 2003 for just £100, and its free-to-use, ethical stance quickly made it the UK’s biggest independent money website, according to internet ranking site, and the number one ‘Business and Finance – Business Information’ site, according to Hitwise. It has more than 12 million people opted-in to receive the weekly MSE’s Money Tips email, and more than 16 million unique monthly site users who visit more than 28 million times a month. In September 2012, it joined the Group PLC.

About Martin Lewis: Martin Lewis OBE, Money Saving Expert, is the journalist and consumer campaigner who created and is now the site’s Executive Chair. Martin also founded and chairs the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute charity. He’s the UK’s most-googled man, Citizens Advice’s Consumer Champion of the Year, and has spearheaded major financial justice campaigns including bank charges reclaiming (over seven million template letters downloaded), PPI reclaiming (over six million) and a successful large-scale campaign to get financial education in schools. He has his own prime-time ITV programme, The Martin Lewis Money Show, as well as a range of other regular media slots. He was appointed OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2014.