Online shops – like any shops – employ a range of tricks and tactics to get you to spend more. One of these tactics is using ‘time limited’ offers – but are the deadlines they give always honest?
Have you ever been sent an email that says ‘sale ends today’, or ‘less than 48 hours left’, in order to get you to make a snap decision and buy that patio set?
We signed up to emails from online shops to see what offers we received and whether these were really what they seemed. And the answer is that often they’re not.
For instance, we received an email from lastminute.com that stated ‘Up to 30% off hotels – hurry sale ends… 27 May’ This was followed by a sale in which some of the hotels were cheaper than during the first offer. For instance, a hotel in Rome dropped from £182 a night to £116 a night.
Argos sent us an email saying ‘Hurry, deals must end soon’, including a third off selected garden furniture. But the patio set we checked was cheaper after the deal ended, dropping from £349.99 to £279.99.
You can read our full article about online retail tricks in the Which? magazine archive.
In some instances, these sorts of emails could be breaching the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs). That’s if the shop’s actions can be shown to be misleading and likely to cause the average consumer to make a shopping decision they wouldn’t otherwise have made.
They could also potentially break the Committee of Advertising Practice code. This says you shouldn’t change closing dates unless unavoidable. If you do you should ensure customers who had the original deal aren’t disadvantaged.
Argos and Lastminute.com respond
We asked Argos and Lastminute.com about these offers and they said:
Argos: ‘We always strive to ensure that our marketing and advertising is compliant with all applicable legislation and codes of practice. We will share this information internally as part of a review into our processes.’
Lastminute.com: ‘The second offer was not advertised publicly on our website, and we used a different selection of hotels – only 5% of the hotels that appeared in the first promotion also appeared in the second.’
Do you act on email offers? And have you ever felt caught out by them?