The Competition and Markets Authority is calling on Wowcher to change its selling practices, which it says could be putting unfair pressure on customers to make quick purchases.
Wowcher is a large online site that offers deals on a variety of products and services, such as hotels, restaurants and experiences.
In March this year, the CMA launched an investigation following concerns about Wowcher’s online selling practices – including whether its ‘urgency’ claims were misleading shoppers and could break consumer protection law.
Wowcher’s website features extensive use of countdown clocks and marketing claims such as ‘Running out!’ or ‘In high demand!’ which create an impression of urgency and influence shoppers as they are making their purchasing decisions.
The CMA has found evidence that these claims risk giving the misleading impression that products will increase in price or will not be available, when this is often not the case. Such claims, especially when used with countdown clocks, can put pressure on shoppers to buy quickly for fear of missing out, leading to rushed purchases.
The CMA is also concerned about other practices used by Wowcher, including hidden charges and the use of a pre-ticked box to enrol consumers into VIP memberships on Wowcher’s site, which may lead to additional unintended purchases by consumers.
The CMA has written to Wowcher detailing its concerns and outlining the ways in which the company can formally address these. Wowcher now has the opportunity to respond and avoid court action by signing undertakings to change its online sales practices, it says.
“Misleading urgency claims put pressure on shoppers to make quick decisions when spending their money. With soaring living costs people need the time to shop around and find the right deals,” said Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA.
“We want to send an important message to Wowcher and other online businesses that time is running out on pressure selling tactics and we are calling on them to agree to change the way they do business to avoid the risk of court action.”
A Wowcher spokesperson responded: “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. The aim of our marketing claims is always to provide accurate and useful information to our customers when they are browsing our website.
“We look forward to continuing to engage with the CMA on this matter.”