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Choice or Confusion – too much of a good thing for consumers?

We’re told competition and choice is a good thing – that it allows consumers get better value for money. But we all know businesses are out to bamboozle us – the greater the confusion, the greater chance we’ll end up spending too much money.

One only has to think about the last time we tried to pick a mobile phone deal or health insurance plan to understand that amount of choices provided will almost certainly lead to confusion among many consumers.

Dishwasher Tablets

A very simple example is illustrated below.

Vast choice in dishwasher tablets will lead to consumer confusion over best value available

Back in November, I just needed to buy some dishwasher tablets. Simple? The image above shows the choices available FROM ONLY A SINGLE BRAND in a well known supermarket multiple. There are thirteen different options below, broken down as follows:

  • 5 different price points, €10, €16.43, €20.01, €20.02 and €26.30
  • 5 different numbers of tablets per box. 30, 38, 40, 51, and 74
  • 6 different price / number of tablets combinations
  • 2 of the combinations are 50% off, but no deals available on the rest
  • 6 different average price per tablets

Unit Pricing

Interestingly, none of these price stickers show any of the 6 different unit price per tablet for any of the combinations. According to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission:

Unit pricing is a useful way to compare prices of groceries that come in different sized packages.

I guess dishwasher tablets don’t fit into the “groceries” category.

Which would be useful for consumers because depending on the pack chosen above, you could pay anything between 25c and 55c per tablet – a difference of 220%.

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