/ Shopping, Technology

Offers on electrical goods – dodging a ‘dodgy deal’

A hand icon clicking on a special offer

Eight in 10 Which? members look out for offers on electrical goods, but we’ve discovered some offers may not be all they’re cracked up to be. Have you spotted a disappointing special offer?

We tracked prices for more than five months at Amazon, Argos and Currys, the biggest sellers of electrical and white goods.  We found tactics that make it look like you’re getting a bargain, when this isn’t necessarily the case.

Here are some of the examples we found during our investigation:

  • Amazon advertised you could save £120 on the RRP of a Canon camera. But the saving was just £20 compared with the price the manufacturer sold it for directly;
  • Argos sold a Morphy Richards iron ‘for £10 off’. But this ‘offer price’ was the same as the manufacturer was selling it for;
  • Currys offered a Samsung television for ‘£300 off’, but the higher price had only applied for three weeks, six months previously.

Currys’ website often referred to much earlier periods of time when it had sold an item at the higher price – the most extreme example we saw was more than a year earlier. Argos’ website also stated that items had previously been sold at the lower price it was now describing as an offer price.

Electrical offers – companies respond

We asked the shops that sold these products about their offers.

Amazon said that two of the recommended retail prices that we mentioned have been updated on its website. It also said that it aims to provide the very latest information for customers.

Currys said that some products don’t have set RRPs and that it sets some itself when an RRP is yet to be established. It said it would investigate why the prices for four particular products weren’t updated in line with the usual Currys processes.

Argos strongly refuted any suggestion that its deals aren’t genuine and said its offers fully comply with government guidelines. Argos said the items we named had been on sale at a higher price for between 28 and 113 days. However, it did not provide an answer when we asked how much earlier these higher prices had applied or which items were only at the higher price for 28 days.

When we surveyed Which? members, we found that they are fairly trusting of special offers on electrical goods, with just over half agreeing they’re good value for money. Perhaps more worryingly, a significant minority spent more than they originally budgeted for because of a special offer. This habit was most extreme for technology products, where a fifth splashed out more cash.

Have you ever spent more than planned on an appliance or tech product even though it was on offer? Have you spotted any examples of ‘dodgy deals’?

richard says:
16 April 2013

This is why I never buy in haste – I don’t like repenting in leisure. I usually only buy when I need something – Found that often importing the item is the cheapest option – The guarantee applies to the UK.- But I’ve never needed to buy large items from abroad yet. I always compare the price VERY carefully on the Internet – Sale prices have always been “iffy” in my experience.

This practice infuriates me.
The law should be changed so that once a price has been at a reduced rate for, say a month, then the former higher price may no longer be referred to and the average price of the past month becomes what would be deemed the ‘normal’ selling price. This new ‘normal’ price can no longer be claimed to be a discounted figure (after all… if it is at a particular price for a lengthy period of time, surely that IS the normal selling price!). Any future discounts must refer back to this new figure. This should help eradicate items that appear to be permanently on discount!
The law should also be changed so that the benchmark price has to have been previously offered in the same store in which the discount is being offered (might be difficult to police this though) and not some obscure store on a Hebridean isle!