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Kitchen and bathroom retailers using ‘misleading’ offers

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Kitchen and bathroom retailers are using potentially misleading discount claims to push homeowners into quick decisions, finds a new Which? investigation.

The research group analysed promotional offers for popular kitchen and bathroom retailers for a year between March 2018 and March 2019. It showed firms using ‘hurry deals’ to encourage customers to sign up quickly. One group hiked prices and then launched a sale, leaving the sale price equivalent to the typical pre-sale price.

The research also showed four brands running various ‘offers’ on at least 361 days out of 365. Wren Kitchens and Wickes had various deals on every single day from March 2018 to March 2019.

Which? has alerted Trading Standards to the poor practices and asked for an investigation. A separate complaint about one of the retailers has been made to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Which? singled out Better Bathrooms, Victoria Plum and Victorian Plumbing for using prominent ‘countdown clocks’ to promote various time-limited promotions during January and February 2019 – although each of these retailers was running other primary offers that were not time-limited.

It gave the example of Victoria Plum, which ran two offers on 14th January 2019 – ‘up to 70% off January sale’ and ‘an extra 10% off sale prices’ on a countdown clock showing that the discount was ending in less than two days. When Which? checked again three days later the ’up to 70% off’ was still available but now customers could have got ‘20% off sale prices’ – twice the previous additional discount.

Real value?

Which? warned that constant sales might compel people to buy then and there, when there is likely to be another deal the very next day or shortly after. It said it made it difficult to understand the true value of different kitchens and bathrooms.

Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “A new kitchen or bathroom is likely to set you back thousands of pounds, so it’s unacceptable for retailers to be using potentially misleading tricks to make a sale.

“Our research suggests that this is an industry-wide issue. We want to see retailers being more transparent about their prices so that consumers aren’t misled into parting with their cash for a deal that might not be as good as it seems. If they don’t make improvements then trading standards and the ASA need to intervene.”

Which? advice to avoid misleading sales:

• Don’t feel pressured to buy if you’re not sure – take your time to make the right decision for you.
• Don’t take a headline offer at face value. Shop around and compare prices as you might find your dream kitchen or bathroom cheaper elsewhere.
• Make sure you read the small print to find out exactly when an offer will end, particularly when there is more than one deal.
• Search Which? to find out what ratings the experts gave to kitchen and bathroom brands.

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