Deal websites ‘misleading’ customers with small print and dodgy price claims

Spa deals were among those found to be misleading.
Spa deals were among those found to be misleading.
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Consumers who believed they are bagging a bargain on deal websites are being misled by dodgy deals, unsubstantiated sales claims and unclear small print, an investigation has claimed.

Watchdog Which? found 14 instances on leading discount site Groupon where products were either advertised with a higher RRP than that offered directly from the manufacturer, were available at a cheaper price elsewhere, or had unexpected restrictions in the small print.

While it found that there were some good deals on offer, use of unsubstantiated higher or out-of-date retail prices is against Advertising Standard Authority’s rules, and the ASA has already upheld a number of similar complaints this year.

Which? analysed deals available on Groupon between October and November 2018, and compared the claimed original and deal prices with those available from other sources.

A spa package, including treatments and bubbly for two, was on Groupon priced at £139, supposedly a 65 per cent discount on a standard price of £402. But the hotel’s own website was offering the deal at the same price, and claimed the full price was £94 less than advertised on Groupon.

Meanwhile, a tri-fold mirror advertised as £100 full price was actually available for £35 from the official retailer.

Harry Rose, editor of Which? Magazine, said: “Customers should be able to trust that pricing information they see on Groupon and other deal websites is accurate, so they can make an informed decision about whether to part with their cash.

“As the Christmas shopping frenzy begins, consumers should be on guard and not take every deal at face value. Groupon must also stringently review its deals to ensure there is no risk of customers being misled.”

Which? also found examples of misleading terms and conditions. One deal offering a choice of burger, and a bottomless drink, with 52 per cent off the standard price featured a photo of a double-decker beef burger. However, hidden away in the small print was a line making clear that the burger in the photo was not part of the deal.

Groupon removed all of the deals, misleading images or prices flagged up to it by Which?.

A spokeswoman for Groupon said: “Transparency on our pricing is incredibly important to us. We are constantly reviewing pricing practices, such as requiring merchants to advise us when they make any changes to their pricing which may affect our deals.

“We have ensured the deals flagged have been reviewed and these reviews will be an ongoing process to ensure true prices are reflected.”