Rapped by the OFT – will Groupon start to behave itself?
After an investigation by the Office of Fair Trading, Groupon has been given three months to change its practises to make sure it stays within the law. Will the ruling make you more likely to hunt for ‘daily deals’?
About nine months ago I went to a comedy club with my sister. We were promised fun, laughs, live-music and a free buffet. Although this night apparently cost £80, we were offered it for the bargain price of £15 on Groupon – who could resist?
We had quite a nice time – one of the comedians happened to be a firm favourite of mine – so we were certainly entertained. But perhaps the loudest laughs came when we saw the quality of the buffet.
I’ve had better sandwiches from cheap service stations. The food was greasy, cold, and served on paper plates in a venue that even the most optimistic of estate agents would describe as ‘poky’ and ‘dismal’.
So, although a fun night was had, I’m convinced no one would have paid £80 for it. I went away with a slight suspicion that the cost of the evening had been unrealistically inflated, so as to make the discount seem even bigger.
Groupon gets put in detention
The OFT’s investigation uncovered a wide array of practices which it thought breached consumer protection regulations. As a result, Groupon’s been asked to behave itself, and has agreed to a number of strict rules.
Not only will it have to make sure that its promises of huge savings are (ahem) accurate, there are a number of other changes which are more than welcome.
From now on Groupon has promised to take reasonable steps to make sure that health and beauty product claims can be substantiated. We’ve discussed health products and Groupon before on Which? Convo, and our health researcher Joanna Pearl is thrilled by the news:
‘Some of the most common deals on group buying websites are health and beauty treatments, such as laser hair removal. We welcome the OFT’s demands that claims made are adequately substantiated.
‘Some of these treatments can carry significant risk of harm if they’re not done properly, and we believe that good information is the key to people consenting to treatment, including the limitations as well as the benefits.’
Will you give them a gold star?
So at least two pieces of good news here, and I think there’s another one. The daily deals site has also promised to abide by the Distance Selling Regulations, which means you should be able to get your money back within 7 days if you happen to change your mind about a purchase.
I’m delighted, but I’m not sure it’ll save the reputation of this type of website. When we’ve discussed group buying sites before, many of you have shown a healthy level of scepticism – citing concerns about some of the issues mentioned above.
Will the OFT’s investigation, and Groupon’s promise of change, make you feel safer when buying from group buying sites? Or would you rather pay full price elsewhere and not take the risk?
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