A clampdown on fake reviews and hidden fees has been announced by the government.
Fake reviews, hidden fees and confusing labels have all been targeted in new consultations aimed at improving services for customers.
The government said the proposed new business measures will help customers cut the cost of living and boost transparency.
Commissioned by the Prime Minister in June, research published today highlights the need for a clearer and fairer customer journey.
The research has confirmed so-called ‘drip pricing’ – where the price paid at checkout is higher than originally advertised due to extra, but necessary, fees – is widespread, and occurs in more than half of providers in the entertainment and hospitality industry, and almost three quarters across transport and communication sectors. In total, this costs UK consumers £1.6 billion online each year.
“Today’s measures will help people keep hold of their hard-earned cash and ensure they have the clearest and most accurate information upfront before they make a purchase,” said Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business Kevin Hollinrake.
“From the shelves of supermarkets to digital trolleys, modern-day shopping provides a great wealth of choice. But fake reviews and hidden fees can make those choices increasingly confusing and leaves customers unsure about what product is right for them.
“We’ll be listening to industry to ensure these new regulations work for businesses too and don’t generate unnecessary burdens, while at the same time providing a crucial safety net for consumers and their cash.”
Another consultation launching later today seeks views on measures to stop fake reviews, as initially announced in the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill (DMCC).
The ambition is to ensure that consumers and traders continue to benefit from reviews that represent a genuine experience, while stamping out the purchase and sales of fake reviews, and ensuring firms take an appropriate level of responsibility for reviews on their websites.
The final consultation – launching later today – looks at how to simplify labelling on goods.
Following a review by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the Department for Business and Trade has put forward proposals to reform the Price Marking Order (PMO).
The PMO requires traders to display the final selling price and, where appropriate, the final unit price (e.g. price per litre/kilogram) of products in a clear way.
These changes will ensure unit pricing is consistently applied, including to promotions and special offers, helping consumers compare products easily and identify what items represent the best value to them.
Sarah Cardell, CEO of the Competition and Markets Authority said: “This consultation follows recommendations from the CMA to government to tighten the rules on how everyday items are priced on supermarket shelves as well as our work tackling fake reviews online.
“We’re very pleased to see this getting underway and it’s an important step toward clearer rules and greater transparency for people when shopping around for goods and services.
“We’ll feed into this consultation and continue our work in these areas, which we’ll be updating on later this year.”
Meanwhile the DMCC Bill, which will look at powers to ban fake reviews, will clamp down on unfair behaviour by a small number of the most powerful tech companies as well as tackling issues such as subscription traps – all with the aims of saving consumers money and boosting competition.