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Shoppers urged to call out online rip-offs

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is urging shoppers to report online rip-offs via a digital form.

The move is part of the competition watchdog’s Online Rip-Off Tip-Off campaign.

The campaign, fronted by consumer champion and Martin Lewis Money Show co-presenter Angellica Bell, aims to crack down on practices that could break the law and urges shoppers to call out online rip-offs.

Misleading tactics highlighted by the campaign include pressure selling, hidden charges, subscription traps and fake reviews. The CMA said these online tactics are designed to mislead and push people to part with their cash.

The CMA has also written to businesses detailing its ‘red lines’ when using price reduction and urgency claims which it said are types of pressure selling.

The letter provides practical illustrations of where common online tactics may be misleading Brits or applying unfair pressure. The advice is for all businesses that sell or promote products online to UK shoppers, so they can stop sales practices that could break the law.

Bargain hunting Brits

The action by the CMA comes as a survey of 3,700 UK adults shows that 67% said the cost-of-living pressures have made them more desperate to find the best deals, while 71% believe they are ‘saving money’ by purchasing deals that are on offer – some of which may not be genuine.

The poll also found that one in four (24%) of UK adults said they had fallen victim to sneaky online sales tactics. Almost a quarter (23%) didn’t realise tactics such as ‘15 mins left of sale’ or ‘buy now’ can sometimes be false or misleading.

Bell said: “We know that the rising cost-of-living is putting a strain on shoppers across the UK. 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.”

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “Our research has frequently uncovered businesses using dubious tactics online that mislead consumers into spending money on products and services that fall short and rip them off.

“While it is good the CMA is raising awareness and offering a tool for consumers to report unscrupulous practices such as fake reviews, the Government’s forthcoming Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill is desperately needed in order to make consumer protection laws fit for the digital age.”

Visit the Government’s Call it out! Report it! campaign page to take two minutes to report sneaky online sales tactics.

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