Smart Consumer: Don't get fooled by dirty tricks in retail price wars
Published 11/11/2010 | 05:00
The sign says the shop is closing down, so in you go to stock up before they close their doors. But months later, the shop is still there and so is that big 'closing down' banner.
Or what about the shop advertising the latest TV for €300, but when you go in you're told there are none at that price but are asked "would you like to see a better model for €500?"
These actions are prohibited under consumer law. The rules are there so that you won't be sucked in by promotional tactics that are designed to part you from your cash. What you are offered or what you see should be what you get.
Traders should act 'in good faith' (under the Consumer Act 2007) and that means that if the trader can't show that they weren't trying to con you, they could be in breach of the law and prosecuted.
The trader should not have an unfair advantage when it comes to pricing the goods, as let's face it, we're all tempted when we see the sale sign.
When something is advertised as being on a sale price, the original price should also be shown. And that should have been used for a 'reasonable period' prior to the sale, recommended as 28 days, or 14 days for perishables or seasonal products.
Any old stock should be described as such so that you know what you're getting.
The same goes for discontinued lines or items in an outlet store.
If the sign says "up to 70% off", then there should be a reasonable amount of stock selling at 70% off. The original full price should also be shown.
Likewise if a product has a sign on it saying €50 off or 25% off, it is confusing if the discount is included in the price shown. Therefore, both the original and the reduced price should be shown.
Introductory or special offers
These sorts of offers are common practice, but they should come with plenty of information.
"Special introductory offer of €9.99" is not enough; the sign must indicate when the offer will end and the retail price after the promotion has ended.
If a product is advertised as having limited availability, then it must have a limited availability.
If, on the other hand, the offer is a ploy for consumers to make hasty or unplanned decisions, it is a misleading action and that is prohibited.
A car dealer advertises cars for sale -- "This year's model -- only €3,000". But the dealer has no intention of selling the cars at that price.
He has used this type of advertising to encourage consumers to visit his showroom in the hope of increasing business. This is an example of bait advertising and is prohibited.
As are 'bait and switch' tactics. This is when the 32" TV is offered for sale at a very attractive price but the trader has no intention of selling the advertised product or isn't in a position to provide it.
Instead the 'bait' has got you in to the store and the 'switch' is when the salesperson piles on the pressure to get you to buy a higher value product instead.
If a store promises they will match a price if found lower in another store, they have to tell you what terms there are, for example: is the deal only on certain products and for what time period and so on.
You see a sign saying 'free DVD' on the front of a publication, but when you buy the publication you find out that you have to collect a number of tokens to claim the DVD.
Well it isn't 'free' then is it, seeing as you have to buy multiple copies of whatever it is to get the DVD?
A product can't be described as 'free' or 'without charge' if you have to incur any financial cost to get it. So the trader should make it clear to you exactly what you have to do, whether that is collecting tokens or calling a premium rate number or whatever it may be.
Closing down sales
Sadly, there are a lot of legitimate closing-down sales out there, but if a trader is using it as a ploy to get people in the door, that isn't on.
When advertising a closing-down or relocation sale then the date of closure has to be indicated, so you know how much time you have and don't go spending in a hurry for no good reason.