Tesco has announced plans to reduce the cost of sanitary products by 5% with immediate effect – essentially covering the controversial tampon tax themselves.
Tesco is the first brand to commit to the landmark strategy, and women’s rights activists have expressed optimism that other supermarkets will follow suit.
Sanitary products have been classed as a luxury item and up until last year were taxed at 17.5%. An online petition that gained over 320,000 signatures and subsequent parliamentary debate saw it reduced to 5%, but then-Prime Minister David Cameron expressed that it could not be lowered any further due to EU law.
However, last year Cameron was able to convince EU ministers to drop the VAT on these products, but the new ruling won’t come into effect until 2018 at the earliest.
Tesco’s new measure will effectively bring the VAT reduction to fruition immediately, and will apply to own label products as well as bigger name brands.
‘For many of our customers, tampons, panty liners and sanitary towels are essential products,’ said Michelle McEttrick, Tesco’s group brand director. ‘However, the cost of buying them every month can add up, and, for many women and girls, it can be a real struggle on top of other essential items.’
‘That’s why – as a little help for our customers – we are reducing the cost of these products by 5 per cent.’
Labour MP for Dewsbery Paula Sherriff, who has spearheaded the campaign for reducing the tampon tax in Parliament, is pleased with the decision, and hopes that it will encourage other brands to follow suit.
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‘It would have been completely unacceptable if abolishing the tampon tax had just led to big businesses boosting their bottom line at the expense of women buying what are essential goods, which is why we pushed the supermarkets to sign up to a deal to pass the cut on,’ she said. ‘But this goes a step even further, by reducing prices right now – and I hope the other big retailers now consider doing the same.’