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Published on December 18th, 2014 | by The GC Team


Dubious discounts on electrical goods revealed

A new Which? investigation into special offers has revealed questionable discounts that deliver little or no real savings on electrical products.

Which? tracked the prices of more than 100 electrical products online over six months at major electrical goods retailers Amazon, Argos, Currys and John Lewis and said that it found a number of “dodgy deals”.

Among the examples the consumer body found Amazon selling a Canon EOS70D camera with lens for £967.99. The offer price, calculated from Amazon’s RRP of £1,239.99, claimed savings of £272. However, compared with Canon’s typical selling price of £959, consumers would have actually paid £8.99 more.

Amazon told Which?: “We work with product manufacturers to provide our customers with a wide range of information about any given product, including RRPs. We aim to provide the very latest information.”

A Sony Bravia TV was found on offer at Currys for £579, with a claimed saving of £170 from the original price of £749. Despite the retailer not breaking any official rules by using a sign showing when the higher price applied, Currys only sold this Sony set at the higher price for three weeks but the advertised ‘offer’ ran for seven months.

When asked why it quoted ‘was’ prices from many months before, Currys said: “We are the only retailer to always show customers when and for how long our ‘was’ prices applied, both online and in store. We strictly observe government guidelines on pricing by giving customers clear information.”

At Argos, a Nikon D3300 24MP DSLR camera with lens had the offer price reduced over time but kept comparing the savings to be made to the original price rather than the offer price from the previous month. However, Argos did make it clear the camera had been previously sold at a cheaper price.

John Lewis also came under the eye of the consumer watchdog for pricing on certain TV models. Which? said the retailer “sometimes reduced its offer prices over time, but it kept comparing the discount against the highest price it had sold something for.”

Which? surveyed 1,096 of its members in September 2014 about their views on electrical offers. Three in 10 (31%) consumers said they bought a product they hadn’t intended to because it was on special offer and two in five (41%) wait for offers before buying products.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “With many shoppers on the lookout for bargains this Christmas, we’ve found dodgy discounts that might lure people into buying something they could have found cheaper elsewhere. It’s time for the Government to force retailers to play fair by setting out new, clearer and tougher rules on special offers.”

Which? launched a campaign to ‘Make Special Offers Special’ in November 2013 calling for a change in the guidance. The Government has asked Trading Standards Institute to review the Pricing Practices Guide, which is currently being consulted on, but progress has been slow.


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