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Misleading Advertising and Online Shopping

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 23 May 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Misleading Advertising And Online Shopping

Advertising goods and services online is actually a viable business in itself. Affiliate programmes, advertising keyword campaigns and pay per click advertising are all important strategies in driving web traffic - or potential consumers - to a website. For this reason, online sellers in particular may be tempted to stretch or slightly distort the truth regarding the pricing or description of their goods and services. However, you should be aware that online traders, just like their high street counterparts, are under a legal obligation to provide their consumers with non-misleading advertisements.

Regulatory Body

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills is the department responsible for reviewing and refining all laws and regulations concerning trade descriptions and misleading advertising. The basis of these laws is that the seller provides honest and legal information to the consumer. If these guidelines are not followed, then the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) can intervene and investigate.

If the seller is based in the UK, then they are under the scrutiny of the independent Advertising Standards Authority. This regulatory body has set out codes of practice and regulations in order to monitor advertisements, making sure that companies do not confuse consumers with ambiguous pricing, or make false or misleading descriptions of the goods or services on offer. This code is known as the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing and applies to all non-broadcasting media.

However, you should be aware that there are differences in the way that the regulatory system operates with shop window advertising and online advertising. Basically, the system does not apply to content that appears on the website belonging to the advertiser. The ASA also does not apply the code to editorial content, but you should be aware that website content from a British-based website is still subject to British law such as the Trade Descriptions Act. The ASA will, however, look into complaints made regarding paid advertising campaigns that are sited on a third party's website. Examples of these advertisements include commercial emails, pop-up advertisements and 'banner ads'.

On a very basic level, it is worth remembering that both high street and online consumers are protected if they are subject to misleading advertising. Currently, as the law stands in the UK, sellers are required to provide consumers with goods that are as described, fit for purpose, and of satisfactory quality. If the trade description and the advertisement do not match, then you may be entitled to a refund or compensation.

Pricing

It is actually a criminal offence for a seller to provide misleading information on the pricing of goods or services. All hidden costs must also be included in the final price, or made clear on the advertisement, with written confirmation provided to the consumer when purchasing an item.

What to do?

If you believe that you have been subject to misleading advertising online, your first port of call should be to check that the website is UK-based, and then contact the online retailer. If this does not resolve your complaint, then you can try contacting the UK government's online consumer advice centre, Consumer Direct. You can also make a complaint to the ASA, who may investigate or refer your complaint.

If you believe that a financial service provider is using misleading advertising, then you can use an online contact form to inform Financial Services Authority (FSA).

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[Add a Comment]
I bought tickets from a online site called boatpartytickets for a sunset booze cruise. I was told on the website I would receive a tshirt, free shots, champagne and unlimited selection of cocktails. The only thing we got on this boat was sangria and beer nothing else that was advertised I played 44.00 and am deeply upset. Can I do anything about it to get a refund ?
Becca - 23-May-18 @ 8:13 PM
Beth - Your Question:
I recently ordered a camera, and in the picture online the camera came with 3 extra lenses. When it arrived it was a completely different box (same camera) and without the extra lenses. When I rang Boots they said that it says nowhere in the description that it comes with extra lenses, however the photo falsely advertises this! Where do I stand with this?

Our Response:
Did you read the description/specification when you ordered it? Were there any other products advertised on the same page? Sorry we would need more information to comment on this.
OnlineShoppingRights - 23-May-18 @ 3:32 PM
I recently ordered a camera, and in the picture online the camera came with 3 extra lenses. When it arrived it was a completely different box (same camera) and without the extra lenses. When I rang Boots they said that it says nowhere in the description that it comes with extra lenses, however the photo falsely advertises this! Where do I stand with this?
Beth - 22-May-18 @ 5:34 PM
Lea - Your Question:
I recently bought and paid for a large wooden playhouse from a well known retailers website and the one which was delivered is not the same (different windows and door) as the one they advertised online. Where do I stand with this?

Our Response:
Write to them and tell them that it's not the one you ordered. They should be able to give youdetails of how to return it or negotiate a refund of the difference if you want to keep it and it's a cheaper model.
OnlineShoppingRights - 22-May-18 @ 3:51 PM
I recently bought and paid for a large wooden playhouse from a well known retailers website and the one which was delivered is not the same (different windows and door) as the one they advertised online. Where do I stand with this?
Lea - 16-May-18 @ 9:12 PM
Nikki - Your Question:
RE - BooHoo Northern Ireland Next Day DeliveryFor a second time I have ordered items from Boohoo using their advertised Northern Ireland Next Day delivery which states if it is ordered before 1pm it will be delivered Next Day. On this occassion I placed my order at 23:50 on Wednesday night and paid for Northern Ireland Next Day delivery. So I expected as it was before 1pm on Thursday I should receive my parcel by Friday.It's now Saturday and the tracking info shows no sign of a delivery today and BooHoo website says I won't receive my parcel until Tuesday.As I said, this is the second time I paid for the Northern Ireland Next Day delivery only for it not to be delivered as they have advertised. Last time when I complained there was no apology just a matter of fact email from BooHoo customer services stating I had received my items so what did I want them to do?I feel they are advertising this Next Day delivery without the ability to provide the service, just to ensure people who need something urgently buy from their website but they don't deliver the goods.

Our Response:
If the service is not being provided as described/advertised, talk to Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Authority. Tell them also, that Boohoo ar not responding effectively to your complaint.Boohoo should refund you for any delivery charges if the delivery terms have not been met.
OnlineShoppingRights - 8-May-18 @ 10:45 AM
RE - BooHoo Northern Ireland Next Day Delivery For a second time I have ordered items from Boohoo using their advertised Northern Ireland Next Day delivery which states if it is ordered before 1pm it will be delivered Next Day. On this occassion I placed my order at 23:50 on Wednesday night and paid for Northern Ireland Next Day delivery. So I expected as it was before 1pm on Thursday I should receive my parcel by Friday. It's now Saturday and the tracking info shows no sign of a delivery today and BooHoo website says I won't receive my parcel until Tuesday. As I said, this is the second time I paid for the Northern Ireland Next Day delivery only for it not to be delivered as they have advertised. Last time when I complained there was no apology just a matter of fact email from BooHoo customer services stating I had received my items so what did I want them to do? I feel they are advertising this Next Day delivery without the ability to provide the service, just to ensure people who need something urgently buy from their website but they don't deliver the goods.
Nikki - 5-May-18 @ 10:50 AM
PP - Your Question:
I purchased a bike online. The description said it came with dynamo and kickstand. When I received it I rode it round to try it out, then remembered that it should have included the above. I contacted the company who said that the wrong description had been added to the website and the dynamo and kickstand was not included with that model. I was told I could return the item for a refund. Thing is, I have ridden the bike and like it but feel cheated that the description of the goods online was not correct. Can you tell me if I have to return the bike for a refund (which I don't want as I like the bike) or do they have to offer me some compensation? I have screen shots of all the relevant information. Also the bike had been reduced by £75 between me ordering and delivery! Thank you.

Our Response:
Consumer legislation says they have to refund you. It's worth negotiation with the retailer if you want to keep the item though.
OnlineShoppingRights - 1-May-18 @ 11:38 AM
I purchased a bike online.The description said it came with dynamo and kickstand.When I received it I rode it round to try it out, then remembered that it should have included the above.I contacted the company who said that the wrong description had been added to the website and the dynamo and kickstand was not included with that model.I was told I could return the item for a refund.Thing is, I have ridden the bike and like it but feel cheated that the description of the goods online was not correct.Can you tell me if I have to return the bike for a refund (which I don't want as I like the bike) or do they have to offer me some compensation?I have screen shots of all the relevant information.Also the bike had been reduced by £75 between me ordering and delivery! Thank you.
PP - 30-Apr-18 @ 3:57 PM
Bought a limited edition vinyl LP which was advertised as ‘limited to 1000 Copies, all copies will be signed while stocks last’ When arrived was not signed and the response from the reseller was ‘sorry’ send it back for a refund. I see on the bands Facebook page this appears to have happened with lots of people expecting signed good. I doubt it’s anything to do with the band themselves but either a merchandiser or promoter. The refund is not the point it’s the false advertising, I don’t even own a record player and only bought it as a piece of memrobila. Is there a provision for compensation in deference to the refund?
Craigwmc - 22-Apr-18 @ 10:34 AM
cookie - Your Question:
Pret a manger r selling a tuna salad and calling it salad niciose however it doesnt contain anyof theingredients that make a basic tuna sakad into nicioise these beinblack olives green beanns and new potatoecan they do this shouldnt they just call it tuna salad

Our Response:
They should really be calling it tuna salad if it doesn't have all the ingredients of a niçoise. Write to their HQ and let them know.
OnlineShoppingRights - 17-Apr-18 @ 1:57 PM
pret a manger r selling a tuna salad and calling it salad niciose however it doesnt contain anyof theingredients that make a basic tuna sakad into nicioise these bein black olives green beanns and new potatoecan they do this shouldnt they just call it tuna salad
cookie - 17-Apr-18 @ 10:55 AM
Joyce - Your Question:
Went to book a "managers special" holiday, which was advertised on an A board, just inside the front door of the the travel agents, for £497. The price included all extras and had been on display for over one week. When we tried to book the holiday the price had increased by £54 per person, we queried this and pointed out that is was a special offer, but were told that was the "new price".We never booked and told them that this was false advertising. The "offer" is still available today on the board at £497.Is this legal, can we insist on getting the deal at the advertised price?

Our Response:
You can't insist on getting the deal at that price but you can report the company to Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Authority.
OnlineShoppingRights - 4-Apr-18 @ 2:51 PM
Went to book a "managers special" holiday, which was advertised on an A board, just inside the front door of the the travel agents, for £497.The price included all extras and had been on display for over one week.When we tried to book the holiday the price had increased by £54 per person, we queried this and pointed out that is was a special offer, but were told that was the "new price". We never booked and told them that this was false advertising.The "offer" is still available today on the board at £497. Is this legal, can we insist on getting the deal at the advertised price?
Joyce - 2-Apr-18 @ 2:28 PM
Tomcat - Your Question:
Who do you complain to about a website inaccuracy? I've seen a website which contains a number of complete untruths about the company it promotes.

Our Response:
You can try the office of Fair Trading or the Advertising Standards Authority.
OnlineShoppingRights - 2-Mar-18 @ 2:23 PM
Who do you complain to about a website inaccuracy? I've seen a website which contains a number of complete untruths about the company it promotes.
Tomcat - 28-Feb-18 @ 12:37 PM
Hazy - Your Question:
I purchased 6 USBs online that were advertised as 60gig. When they arrived, they were also clearly marked on each one as 60g. Upon trying them however, they varied in capacity from.5 to 7g, none were as advertised. I contacted the company but they wouldn't do anything for me because I had purchased them over 8 weeks ago. (They were purchased in July and put away for Christmas presents, hence the delay in finding out they were fraudulently advertised). The site I purchased from was an Irish site and they gave me a credit note for goodwill but the original supplier was a UK company and they refused to acknowledge their actions. I just want to make sure no one else is fooled by their fraudulent practices. Where do I report them? Thank you

Our Response:
Tell Trading Standards about this. We're not sure about your allusion to an original supplier and the site you purchased from - it's the retailer's response to follow this up and to deal with you.
OnlineShoppingRights - 26-Feb-18 @ 10:21 AM
I purchased 6 USBs online that were advertised as 60gig.When they arrived, they were also clearly marked on each one as 60g.Upon trying them however, they varied in capacity from .5 to 7g, none were as advertised.I contacted the company but they wouldn't do anything for me because I had purchased them over 8 weeks ago.(They were purchased in July and put away for Christmas presents, hence the delay in finding out they were fraudulently advertised).The site I purchased from was an Irish site and they gave me a credit note for goodwill but the original supplier was a UK company and they refused to acknowledge their actions.I just want to make sure no one else is fooled by their fraudulent practices.Where do I report them?Thank you
Hazy - 22-Feb-18 @ 9:12 AM
Lyns - Your Question:
I have ordered a personalised mobile phone and ipad case, they were advertised as glitter effect but the images shown were very shimmery, when the case has arrived it is just plastic with blotchy colours to give the effect of glitter, I am not happy that it represents the image on the website, where do I stand with this?

Our Response:
If you ordered it online (from a retailer) you can send it back under your usual consumer rights within 14 days for a full refund.
OnlineShoppingRights - 31-Jan-18 @ 12:32 PM
shelle - Your Question:
HiI ordered a Candy washing machine from VERY with the description of 'The wide opening door makes it simple to get those big loads in and out, while a maximum spin speed of 1600rpm also helps you dry everything quickly.' However, when it arrived my plumber installed the washing machine and I then read the 'quick start' instructions (which doesn't state you can not select 1600 and I used the item looking to change the spin speed. I rang Candy the morning asking if I could select a different spin speed and was told you could't. On this machine there is only one cycle out of 16 that has a 1600 spin speed and all other cycles are 1000 or less. Even on the separate spin cycle you can not select 1600rpm.I purchased this machine due to the 1600RPM spins speed but this is only on one cycle that takes 3.25 hours. I am currently awaiting VERY's feedback as this machine is useless to me. Can you please advise me on what rights I have.Many thanks.

Our Response:
If you ordered it online you would have been able to return within 14 days if it wasn't right for you. The problem is that you've opened it up and installed it. It's working and the phrase a "maximum speed of 1600rpm helps you dry everything quickly" is not entirely inaccurate. See whatVERY comes back with before considering your next action.
OnlineShoppingRights - 30-Jan-18 @ 3:17 PM
I have ordered a personalised mobile phone and ipad case, they were advertised as glitter effect but the images shown were very shimmery, when the case has arrived it is just plastic with blotchy colours to give the effect of glitter, I am not happy that it represents the image on the website, where do I stand with this?
Lyns - 30-Jan-18 @ 2:22 PM
Hi I ordered a Candy washing machine from VERY with the description of'The wide opening door makes it simple to get those big loads in and out, while a maximum spin speed of 1600rpm also helps you dry everything quickly.' However, when it arrived my plumber installed the washing machine and I then read the 'quick start' instructions(which doesn't state you can not select 1600 and I used the item looking to change the spin speed.I rang Candy the morning asking if I could select a different spin speed and was told you could't. On this machine there is only one cycle out of 16 that has a 1600 spin speed and all other cycles are 1000 or less. Even on the separate spin cycle you can not select 1600rpm. I purchased this machine due to the 1600RPM spins speed but this is only on one cycle that takes 3.25 hours. I am currently awaiting VERY's feedback as this machine is useless to me. Can you please advise me on what rights I have. Many thanks.
shelle - 29-Jan-18 @ 12:08 PM
I purchased an xbox one from Very which was advertised as "comes with 12 months subscription to Xbox live". When it arrived there was no xbox live so I rang customer service that night. I was told to expect a download code via my email over the coming days. None arrived. I rang again and was asked to supply information about the missing item and I would hear in"3 to 5 working days". One week later still nothing so I rang again. Same story...3 to 5 working days... another week passed without contact so I ring again...21 minutes I could hear people talking and laughing but I was totally ignored until someone hung up on me!I then complained via email and have, today, two months later been told that the xbox live is a chargeable extra and I should have selected it in my cart. Now, my original order and confirmation email state clearly 500GB console, 12 months subscription to Xbox live and two games. I was told today that I won't be getting the xbox live subscription. What can I do? Surely if advertised as "comes with..." then it should "come with..." without the need to order the item seperately? Especially if it is included in the confirmation email.
Alan - 29-Dec-17 @ 1:35 AM
I purchased an xbox one from Very which was advertised as "comes with 12 months subscription to Xbox live". When it arrived there was no xbox live so I rang customer service that night. I was told to expect a download code via my email over the coming days. None arrived. I rang again and was asked to supply information about the missing item and I would hear in"3 to 5 working days". One week later still nothing so I rang again. Same story...3 to 5 working days... another week passed without contact so I ring again...21 minutes I could hear people talking and laughing but I was totally ignored until someone hung up on me!I then complained via email and have, today, two months later been told that the xbox live is a chargeable extra and I should have selected it in my cart. Now, my original order and confirmation email state clearly 500GB console, 12 months subscription to Xbox live and two games. I was told today that I won't be getting the xbox live subscription. What can I do? Surely if advertised as "comes with..." then it should "come with..." without the need to order the item seperately? Especially if it is included in the confirmation email.
Alan - 29-Dec-17 @ 1:21 AM
I purchase a PC Bundle from Debenhams, which clearly stated PC Bundle with 24" monitor.Watch movies and play games on the 24" monitor......PC arrived but no monitor. Speaking to customer services, it was a mistake and should not have said PC Bundle with 24" monitor.They are saying it only included the PC unit, no monitor.They are happy for me to pay for a monitor off them but should they not have to sell as advertised bundle?
Needadvice - 20-Dec-17 @ 3:24 PM
C - Your Question:
We've purchased a bike on the internet, the following day we received an email advising the bike was no longer available. We checked the website and the bike was still available. Can you advise what our rights are as we do want this bike. Thanks

Our Response:
Try ordering it again. If the same thing happens, report it to the Advertising Standards Agency as they should not be advertising goods for sale that are not...
OnlineShoppingRights - 8-Dec-17 @ 3:31 PM
We've purchased a bike on the internet, the following day we received an email advising the bike was no longer available. We checked the website and the bike was still available.Can you advise what our rights are as we do want this bike. Thanks
C - 7-Dec-17 @ 9:59 PM
M - Your Question:
I have booked a house for our family for Christmas through AirBNB. It was described as 'Whole House for 11 people'. I have now been asked to sign contracts for six different rooms, and through this discovered that it is really a house that has been converted into six rooms. There is no sitting room and a TV only in the dining room that is too small to seat the ten of us. What courses of action are open to me? Thanks

Our Response:
AirBnB usually gives details of all the rooms etc so this should have been obvious at the outset. If however, the property was described as a house for 11 people, there should only have been one contract. Contact AirBnB and also check their terms and conditions.
OnlineShoppingRights - 27-Nov-17 @ 2:59 PM
I have booked a house for our family for Christmas through AirBNB. It was described as 'Whole House for 11 people'. I have now been asked to sign contracts for six different rooms, and through this discovered that it is really a house that has been converted into six rooms. There is no sitting room and a TV only in the dining room that is too small to seat the ten of us. What courses of action are open to me? Thanks
M - 24-Nov-17 @ 5:09 AM
Pedant - Your Question:
As an amateur student of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, recently my eye was caught by a notice in the Internet, advertising a paperback book that looked as though it would add to my knowledge. The book's title is Madame Dowding's Corsets, with the author's name, Michael Bernays. The Internet notice includes the following description: ' … an unchanged, high quality reprint of the original edition of 1896'. In other words, it purported to be a facsimile production.Thus assured, I made a purchase, only to find the book to be absolutely worthless: the illustrations, which in fact are of secondary interest, could be improved upon, but the primary interest, the text, is totally unreadable. This, of course, is because the product is not an 'unchanged, high quality reprint'. It is nothing like it, with some pages of text reduced in size to that of a postage stamp. Not least, rather than be an original of 1896, the book includes material from 1904 (the figures can just be deduced), eight years later.Naturally I complained to the online retailer, The Book Depository, the word 'The' being now dropped. Despite any number of emails to this retailer, I have got nowhere. The emails will be acknowledged, but no more. There has been no word of regret, nor offer of restitution. As I have since seen, a number of other retailers publicise this publication, all of them including the same assurance as to the standard of production.Writing from Australia, 12,000 miles away, I am at a loss to know to whom I can turn in order to effect restitution. At present I feel that I have been 'had'; sold a pup, and I resent it.

Our Response:
Online ordering rules in this country, allow you to return any item that is unwanted within 14 days of receiving the item (you may have to pay return costs depending on the ts & cs). If an item is faulty the retailer is responsible for paying return costs (but we do not know whether that applies for items shipped overseas). If you are having a problem with returning the item becayse it was "not as described" you can complain to trading standards or seek action via the civil courts.
OnlineShoppingRights - 7-Nov-17 @ 11:44 AM
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