In the market for a new TV? Or maybe a camera for Christmas? Watch out for dodgy offers on electrical goods that might not always be as attractive as they seem. In some cases these deals don’t deliver any savings.
When we looked at the prices of electrical goods over the course of six months at Amazon, Argos, Currys and John Lewis, we found a number of ‘special’ offers that weren’t very special.
In fact, some special offers provided no real savings at all.
Top dodgy discounts
• Comparing an offer price to a recommended retail price (RRP) that was higher than the RRP given by the manufacturer or higher than the price the manufacturer was selling the product for on its own website.
• Claiming that a product was on special offer and suggesting customers stood to make a saving, when other retailers in the market were selling the product for the same price without any kind of special offer being in place.
• Steadily reducing the price of a product over time, but continuing to compare the offer price to the highest price at which the product was ever sold.
• Selling a product at a high price for a short initial period, then selling it at a lower price for months and months while continuing to call this a discount.
Check out our picture gallery to see the dodgy special offers we uncovered, or read the full investigation in the January 2015 issue of Which? magazine.
Are these dodgy deals allowed?
In 2010, the Government published its Pricing Practices Guide, which provides guidance to retailers about how they should display prices, including special offers and discounts. The guidance is based on consumer protection laws – most importantly, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Those Regulations ban misleading actions (such as making misleading price comparisons or advertising prices that can’t be achieved) and misleading omissions (such as failing to give you key information about how much you will pay for a product).
However, we found that even where retailers comply with the ‘letter’ of the Pricing Practices Guide when advertising special offers, they don’t necessarily comply with the ‘spirit’. We’re concerned that the current rules aren’t sufficient to ensure that consumers are protected from being misled by dodgy deals.
And we know that everyone likes a bargain. Our research shows that people are inclined to buy products they wouldn’t have otherwise bought when they see a discount that looks attractive.
We don’t think it’s good enough for retailers to say that people should shop around to check the veracity of special offers. We want everyone to be confident that, when they see what looks like a good deal, they can trust that they’re getting real value for money.
Make Special Offers Special
We launched our campaign to Make Special Offers Special last year, calling for changes to the Pricing Practices Guide to ensure we all get value for money from special offers.
The Government has asked Trading Standards to review the Pricing Practices Guide, but progress has been slow. We’re expecting Trading Standards to consult on new guidance at some point in 2015. It’s essential that the Pricing Practices Guide is amended in a way that puts an end to dodgy deals that we believe are misleading shoppers.
Have you seen an offer that looks too good to be true? Or bought something at a ‘discount’, only to find that other outlets are selling the product at the same price without claiming that it’s on offer? And are you confused by RRPs that seem to be sky high compared to what retailers are actually selling the product for?