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DIE WELT (Germany)

Worldcrunch

HAMBURG - Train them young! Die Welt reports that a German consumer protection group has charged Pampers with systematically deceiving consumers by reducing the number of diapers in a pack, without changing the way they are presented in the packaging.

"It’s a way of raising prices on the sly," says Armin Valet of the consumer group Verbraucherzentrale Hamburg.

Made by the American multinational Procter & Gamble, the upmarket disposable diapers are popular across Europe and the world as well. And while they may occupy the same shelf space in German supermarkets, Valet says that in a pack of Size #4 Pampers today there are 34 diapers. In 2006, there were 47 -- without the corresponding price cuts. "If Procter & Gamble goes on like this, in 20 years the pack will be empty," Valet jokes, adding that the sales ploy represents the fourth hidden price hike in seven years. "And they keep claiming the product is improved. Let’s just say the improvements are not immediately obvious," Valet told Die Welt.

Since this practice tricks consumers, the Verbraucherzentrale had it checked out legally and it turns that in Germany “price rises like this are legal,” Valet says. In fact reducing what’s inside packaging while keeping the price the same is a widespread practice in German retail.

The Hamburg consumer group has been monitoring retail prices intensively for years. Eight years ago, it began listing the companies that used the practice, and there are now some 500 products on the list including detergent Persil, mouthwash Odol, Senseo coffee and the Knorr brand renowned for its dried soups.

While the list is based on research by the group, the brands studied usually are chosen after the complaints of irate consumers. Recently, Valet says, the anger about the hidden Pampers price hikes has been multiplying.

According to Verbraucherzentrale the price of the diapers has over seven years effectively risen by 8.8%. Experts say that the diaper makers opted for this way of raising prices because they are afraid of losing customers if the price rise is upfront and transparent. Procter & Gamble was unavailable for comment.

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