Bailiffs seize adverts amid bitter price war between Poland’s largest supermarkets

A price war between Poland’s two largest supermarket chains has intensified after a court asked bailiffs to seize adverts by Biedronka claiming that it has been “cheaper than Lidl since 2002”.

The battle between the two giants over the last month has aroused great public interest, including spawning a series of memes. But it has also drawn criticism over the firms lowering the price of vodka to below production costs, which may be in violation of the law.

Billboard Biedronki zajęty przez komornika. Wiemy, o co poszło

— Radio TOK FM (@Radio_TOK_FM) February 27, 2024

Photographs shared on social media show a Biedronka billboard in Warsaw marked with tape saying it has been “seized [by] a court bailiff”. A legal document attached to the advert also confirms the seizure of the material and gives details of the case.

Industry news service Wiadomości Handlowe notes that on 20 February, a district court in Warsaw issued an injunction against Jeronimo Martins Polska – the Portuguese owner of Biedronka – regarding its advertising directed against German chain Lidl.

That came in response to a request by Lidl, which argued that Biedronka had provided no evidence supporting its claim of lower prices. Biedronka must now refrain from using such slogans during the course of the legal proceedings.

Komornik sądowy zajmuje plakaty Biedronki! Lidl ma powody do radości [ZOBACZ ZDJĘCIA]

— (@WHandlowe) February 27, 2024

The latest battle between the two giants – who last year had the highest revenue among all supermarket chains in Poland – began in January, when Lidl put up billboards saying: “Lidl cheaper than Biedronka in 2023”.

The adverts included the information that Lidl’s lower prices were confirmed by market data from the newspaper Fakt and independent research by ASM Sales Force Agency.

Biedronka reacted by introducing its posters saying that it has been cheaper than Lidl since 2002 – though without providing a source for that claim. Meanwhile, the firm also began sending text messages to its loyalty card holders with examples of its cheaper prices than Lidl.

The two firms then began lowering prices further to attract more customers from one another. One such price battle took place on 8 February, the last Thursday before Lent, which in Poland is known as tłusty czwartek (Fat Thursday) and sees Poles eat huge numbers of doughnuts.

Biedronka i Lidl z beefem z okazji Tłustego Czwartku XDDD

✅ Lidl: Pączek za 29 groszy

✅ Odp Biedronki: 23 gr.

✅ Odp Lidla: 19 gr.

✅ Odp Biedronki: 18 gr.

✅ Odp Lidla: wegańskie pączki za darmo (te co mieli wycofać)


— TurtleHype (@TurtleHype4) February 8, 2024

Lidl initially offered doughnuts at 29 groszy (€0.07) a piece. Biedronka responded by introducing a price of 23 groszy. The two shops then lowered their prices to 19 and 18 groszy per doughnut respectively.

The intensifying competition between the rivals captured the image of the Polish internet, with a wave of comments and memes appearing on social media.

Dyskonty poczuły krew.

— (@donald_PL_) February 5, 2024

However, others have also raised concerns about the effects of the conflict, especially after both firms lowered the price of half a litre of vodka to 9.99 zloty (€2.32), which is below not only production costs but also the excise tax of 14.46 zloty levied on such bottles.

Jan Śpiewak, a prominent municipal activist in Warsaw who has campaigned against cheap alcohol, referred the case to Poland’s consumer protection authority, UOKiK, arguing that Lidl and Biedronka’s promotions broke the law.

Agnieszka Majchrzak of UOKiK told broadcaster TVN that their “preliminary analysis shows that the promotion of alcohol in the form adopted by these chains may constitute legally prohibited promotion of alcoholic beverages”.

News website reports that UOKiK has notified prosecutors of the possibility that the two firms – as well as Kaufland, another German supermarket chain that offered vodka at the even cheaper price of 8.99 zloty – have committed a crime.

Poland’s largest retail chain, Żabka, has withdrawn a promotion offering discounted snacks when purchasing cigarettes.

The decision came after the health ministry announced it was taking action against the firm for violating the ban on advertising tobacco

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) May 9, 2023

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Main image credit: Bambizoe/Flickr (under public domain) and Borys Kozielski/Wikimedia Commons (under CC BY 4.0)

Agata Pyka is an assistant editor at Notes from Poland. She is a journalist and a political communication student at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in Polish and European politics as well as investigative journalism and has previously written for Euractiv and The European Correspondent.

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