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Watchdog to investigate deal site Wowcher over ‘pressure selling’ claims

Nick Cheek
Written By:
Nick Cheek

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will explore whether ‘deal of the day’ voucher site Wowcher has misled customers with pressure selling and ‘urgency’ tactics.

The CMA will examine whether the deal site misled consumers by using countdown timers and other ‘urgency claims’, which may place unfair and unnecessary pressure on shoppers to complete their purchases quickly.

The investigation will also explore other online selling practices used by Wowcher, including how it enrols consumers in its membership scheme.

This is the second firm that the CMA is pursuing over use of ‘urgency’ claims. In November last year, the watchdog began an investigation into online mattress company Emma Sleep over concerns that some of its online sales practices may breach consumer law.

The Wowcher investigation marks the next stage in the CMA’s programme of enforcement work which aims to tackle potentially harmful online selling practices.

CMA: ‘People should not be pressurised’

This investigation follows the publication of an open letter on 29 March from the CMA to UK businesses detailing ‘online red lines’ on misleading urgency and price reduction claims. It provides practical illustrations of where common online tactics may be misleading consumers or applying unfair pressure.

Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA, said: “People who buy online should not be pressurised by practices implying that they must act quickly to avoid missing out, when this is not the case. We’ll be scrutinising these claims from Wowcher and if we find the company is using misleading online selling tactics, we won’t hesitate to take enforcement action – through the courts if necessary.

“This is the second investigation we have opened into urgency claims – which can be a type of pressure selling – and all companies should take note and review their own practices. We’ve published advice to help with this, which sets out clearly those online urgency and price reduction claims that are likely to mislead or put unfair pressure on consumers.”

A spokesperson for Wowcher said: “Wowcher’s mission has always been to help save our customers money with the best, exclusive offers from thousands of our merchants across the UK. This has never been more important than in this challenging economic environment.

“We support the aims of the CMA’s investigation and will work with them to ensure that our customers have the best possible experience when they shop with us.”