Stores face fines over shopping cons

Caroline Cassidy

They tempt us in with the promise of huge reductions and lure us with unbeatable deals but the high street stores and online retailers who use such underhand tactics could soon be in trouble for telling the odd white lie.

Shoppers on Oxford Street, London
Shoppers on Oxford Street, London

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The Office of Fair Trading has revealed that shoppers are being conned by bogus price reductions and non-existent bargains, and they're planning a crackdown on those shops that don't keep their promises.

Drip pricing, a favourite with airlines, in which customers are conned by a slashed price only to find there are a host of extras pushing the price up, and bait sales which lure shoppers in for a bargain buy that is sold out, are just two of the techniques to be condemned by the OFT.

Similarly those stores who proudly declare "up to 75 per cent off" will have to prove the offers are genuine. The OFT has warned traders that they will name, shame and fine the worst offenders.

The crackdown comes as a result of a study into consumer research and the psychology of sales tactics by the consumer watchdog.

It revealed that such offers and deals have a huge impact on how people shop and the resulting unnecessary spending could add up to billions of pounds.

Prashant Vaze, from customer body Consumer Focus, backed the OFT's harsh new stance, telling the Daily Mail: "Consumers should know up-front what the goods and services they buy will cost.

"Companies use drip pricing to advertise a cheap headline rate or get to the top of best-buy tables or price comparison sites. Nothing frustrates consumers more than seeing the price bumped up by extras such as booking fees and handling charges added at the end of the transaction."

The British Retail Consortium, however, disagree. Director of business and regulation Tom Ironside insists that customers make "sophisticated judgments about prices and value" and added that "extra legislation or over enforcement" would be "pointless".

What do you think? Should the stores be pulled up on these "misleading" offers? Leave your comments below...