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Shoppers at the budget retailer TK Maxx may not be getting the bargains they expect.An investigation has revealed that the store’s products are often labelled with apparently misleading prices. Its success has been driven by the promise of designer items ‘always up to 60% less’. But despite its motto of ‘big labels, small prices’, price tags on some of the store’s products are often inflated to make it appear as if they were originally sold for a higher price.The retailer’s shelves also feature a number of products that appear to be by designer labels but are actually made by companies owned by TK Maxx. They are sold at supposedly reduced prices.The litany of seemingly misleading practices also includes allegations that some fashion brands make items to appear exclusively on the rails of the chain.

The US department store is one of Britain’s most prominent high street fashion outlets, with 260 branches across the country and growth of 11 per cent last year.Even Prince Harry has been a customer. In June, he was pictured leaving TK Maxx’s store in Kensington, West London, with a bag of bargains.The thousands of products in each store are normally advertised with a recommended retail price alongside the discounted one offered.But an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches has discovered a number of ways the retailer manipulates this labelling to make products more appealing to customers.In a possible breach of advertising rules, several examples were found of the retailer offering products with vastly exaggerated original selling prices. A coat by the luxury fashion brand Rohmir, for example, was advertised with an RRP of £2,225, but the designer claimed the piece sold for £800.A former designer at the fashion giant Nicole Farhi also revealed how the brand would produce items at a fraction of the cost for the retailer.

Nicole Farhi has since changed ownership, and the current brand owners say they have never made products for TK Maxx.Alonso Ercilla, of the Trading Standards Institute, said: ‘If you want to rely on RRP when showing some price discount, you need to be confident that RRP really existed.‘In other words, that your competitors are using that RRP and if they’re not you shouldn’t be referring to that RRP . . . because it is clearly misleading to refer to an RRP that nobody else is using.’TK Maxx said the RRPs on products were established after conferring with suppliers. Stores ‘only cite an RRP which has been provided . . . independently by the third-party seller’, a spokesman added.The chain said a small fraction of its products were own label and that it was ‘policy not to put RRP on own-brand products’. Any instances of original prices appearing were ‘a product of human error’.The spokesman said: ‘We work closely with Trading Standards to help us to do the right thing for our shoppers. No one is being misled.’The own-label brands that appear in TK Maxx stores include Kenar, Arabella & Addison and Frederik Anderson of Copenhagen. Some of the brand names were tracked to an industrial estate in Watford that is the UK headquarters for the retailer’s parent firm TJX Companies.