Which gives thumbs down to online grocers

Online supermarkets are time-consuming, difficult to use and unreliable, according to a report by consumer watchdog Which?.

Online supermarkets are time-consuming, difficult to use and unreliable, according to a report by consumer watchdog Which?.

Daniel Thomas

Shopping for groceries on the Internet has been touted as a solution to traditional problems like uncontrollable trolleys, long checkout queues and heavy shopping bags. But after making a total of 40 shopping trips to Web sites run by Tesco, Sainsbury's, Iceland and Asda, a panel of 25 Which? readers was largely disappointed.

The report said none of the services was good all round. It found that Iceland had a limited range of products, Tesco had problems with its ordering process and Sainsbury's and Asda had different strengths but were no better than average.

"E-supermarkets have lots to offer shoppers but, at the moment, they bring plenty of disappointments too," said Helen Parker, editor of Which? magazine. "Shoppers had problems finding everyday items and the sites were slow and crashed fairly regularly. Items were often missing or substituted, which was not always acceptable," added Parker.

The panel reported that 20 orders took over 90 minutes to complete and almost a third took more than two hours to order just 35 items. However, one regular Tesco shopper later reported that she could do her weekly shop in 30 minutes.

None of Tesco or Sainsbury's shoppers received their full order and only two Asda shoppers and one at Iceland received everything they asked for.

Because shoppers could not choose, most were sent items with imminent "use by" or "best before" dates, some reporting stale bread and already ripe bananas.

Online supermarkets have a way to go before they become the first choice, said Parker.

Tesco.com was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

daniel.thomas@rbi.co.uk

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