/ Shopping

Don’t be duped by price lies

Sale tags hanging

Companies that dupe people into buying items through tricks such as hidden extras must make prices clearer or face enforcement action, says the Office of Fair Trading – but do we really need protection?

Drip pricing, baiting sales and time-limited offers may sound enticing, but they’re actually practices that could leave you out-of-pocket, warned the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) last week.

If you’ve got no idea what I’m on about, think about the last time you bought something and then consider the messages that might’ve been used to influence your decision.

Sneaky sales tricks

Were you told this offer must end today – or that there were only a few items left at the bargain price advertised? Or perhaps little extras were added during the buying process to increase the overall price you paid?

We’ve all got experience of these sales techniques, especially if the Conversations on this site are anything to go by. You’ve told us about extras being added on to travel costs, credit card charges slipping in at the last minute and never-ending furniture sales – and you’re clearly unhappy about these practices.

Do price lies make us buy?

While OFT recognises that many companies do ‘play fair’, it also says that some pricing techniques can mislead shoppers and sail dangerously close to the wind in terms of the law. But do we really need protection? Do these price lies make us buy – or are we savvier than OFT thinks?

This morning – as with most mornings – I automatically deleted an array of emails from my inbox, all promising amazing rock-bottom prices for today only, or some such marketing spiel. I’m not falling for that trick… but that doesn’t mean I won’t be duped next time I’m offered a promising deal on something I really do want.

Yes, some companies play fair, and yes, most of the time consumers are wise to the ones that don’t. But for all the instances in-between it’s undoubtedly time to take action.

Sophie Gilbert says:
8 December 2010

Agreed, we do need protection. The lowest common denominators, naivety on the consumer’s part (none of us are wise all of the time) and lack of integrity by some retailers are what we have to go by.