CMA urges retailers to crack down on “online rip-offs”

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is inviting consumers to report online rip-offs via a new digital reporting form as it urges businesses to comply with consumer protection law.

Today, the CMA is publishing a letter to UK businesses detailing its ‘online red lines’ on misleading price reduction and urgency claims – which are a type of pressure selling.

The letter provides “practical illustrations” of where common online tactics may be misleading consumers or applying unfair pressure.

“Such claims may be illegal under the CPRs, harm consumers by distorting their behaviour and put fair-dealing businesses at a disadvantage,” the letter reads.

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The CMA’s ‘Online Rip-Off Tip-Off’ campaign, fronted by Martin Lewis Money Show co-presenter Angellica Bell, aims to crack down on practices that could break the law and encourages shoppers to be aware of online scammers.

The campaign aims to enable consumers to spot and avoid misleading online sales tactics and to report businesses which engage in misleading tactics.

These include pressure selling, hidden charges, subscription traps and fake reviews, all tactics designed to “mislead and push people to part with their cash online.”

The CMA’s announcement comes after research by the regulator found that 67% of UK adults have become more desperate to find the best deals amid cost-of-living pressures, while 71% believe they are ‘saving money’ by purchasing deals that are on offer – some of which may not be genuine.

In addition, the research reveals that 24% of consumers have fallen victim to sneaky online sales strategies, with 23% not realising that promotions like ‘15 mins left of sale’ or ‘buy now’ can sometimes be false or misleading.

A further 68% said that these types of misleading tactics should be banned.

“We know that the rising cost-of-living is putting a strain on shoppers across the UK,” Angellica Bell, consumer champion and co-presenter of The Martin Lewis Money Show said.

“Some online businesses are using sneaky sales tactics to make us part with our money when household budgets are already stretched.

“We all feel the pressure of securing bargains, making us more susceptible to being ripped off. It’s frustrating when this happens and it’s time we call out these online retailers and report them to the CMA.”

George Lusty, senior director for consumer protection at the CMA, added: “Now more than ever, every penny counts and the CMA is concerned that some businesses are using underhand tactics designed to part shoppers from their cash.”

“This poll is just the tip of the iceberg as we believe the true number of victims of these rip-offs is much higher as they are often extremely difficult to spot.

“That’s why businesses using urgency and price reduction claims need to consult the CMA’s new advice. It outlines what businesses need to do when designing their online shopping experiences to be sure they comply with the law.”



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