Kitchen and bathroom retailers including Better Bathrooms and Victoria Plum have been accused of using potentially misleading discount claims to lure homeowners into rushing to spend thousands of pounds, a consumer watchdog has claimed.
Which? warned that the practice was an industry-wide issue that the consumer enforcement authorities should investigate after analysing promotional offers for popular kitchen and bathroom retailers for a year between March 2018 and March 2019.
The organisation found firms were using techniques including ‘hurry deals’, which might pressure customers into making a quick purchase.
Four brands featured in the investigation ran ‘offers’ under various guises on at least 361 days out of 365 - a practice that might have persuaded some shoppers to rush a purchase because they may believe the sale price is available for a limited time.
Out of the retailers in the investigation, Better Bathrooms, Victoria Plum and Victorian Plumbing all used 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.
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.”
Victoria Plum said: “Varied promotional and website experiences recognise that different customers have different needs. This is why we work closely with the Advertising Standards Authority to ensure all our promotions meet their guidelines.”
Which? is alerting Trading Standards to its findings and asking for these practices to be investigated.
It said a retailer’s actions could be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) if they can be shown to be misleading, and likely to cause the average person to make a transactional decision they would not have made otherwise.