On-line rip-offs exposed

In a recent press release the Competition and Marketing Authority issued details of a poll of over 2,000 UK adults. According to the results of the poll:

  • 7 out of 10 had experienced misleading online practices
  • 85% believed businesses using them were being dishonest with their customers
  • And 83% were less likely to buy from them in the future

Following the survey, the CMA has launched a brand-new campaign “The Online Rip-Off Tip-Off” to help shoppers spot and avoid misleading online practices that could result in them being misled or suffering financial loss.

With almost one-third of all retail purchases now taking place online, after the pandemic fuelled a surge in internet shopping, the CMA has become increasingly concerned about the impact of these “sneaky” sales tactics on consumers.

Research commissioned by the CMA shows that these practices, which are carefully designed to manipulate shoppers, can lead to wasted time and money, as well as anxiety and stress, and so cause significant financial and emotional harm. It revealed that 71% of people shopping online had encountered these tactics, and 61% described their experience as negative. This is exacerbated by the fact they are often hard to spot, and people don’t know how to avoid them.

The survey also revealed that, of those who had experienced misleading online practices, the biggest concern was about hidden charges (85% of respondents), followed by subscription traps (83%), fake reviews (80%) and pressure selling (50%).

Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s Chief Executive, explained:

“As online shopping grows and grows, we’re increasingly concerned about businesses using misleading sales tactics, like pressure selling or hidden charges, to dupe people into parting with their cash.”

He added:

“None of us would accept these tactics in the real world. But we might not realise how much they influence what we buy online. So, we’ve launched “The Online Rip-Off Tip-Off” to help hand the power back to shoppers.

“We continue to crack down on practices that could break the law, such as fake reviews. But to tackle this problem from all angles, it’s vital shoppers are armed with the tools they need too. It’s only when we all know what these tricks are, and how they are designed to manipulate and mislead, that we are better equipped to avoid them.”

According to the UK-wide survey, many respondents reported that they had wasted money on a disappointing product or experience, spent cash they couldn’t afford or wasted time trying to undo the harm caused.

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