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Misleading Advertising and Online Shopping

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 17 Jul 2019 | 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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watkins247 - 17-Jul-19 @ 7:40 PM
Used an electrical supplier, and reported, descriptions were wrong, IP rating incorrect, Price wrong, pictures were not the item sent, colours of cable different than photo and desdescriptions, yet months later nothing has changed, this is a big issue
ALYN - 25-Jun-19 @ 5:50 PM
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cp60 - 30-Apr-19 @ 1:36 PM
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Stephen95 - 9-Apr-19 @ 1:56 PM
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Mich - 6-Mar-19 @ 11:16 PM
I ordered something online and the shop said “free shipping and returns” I understood this to mean both are free but they are trying to charge me for returns? I think this is misleading advertising, am I right?
B - 16-Feb-19 @ 10:04 AM
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Smooth hound - 5-Feb-19 @ 12:54 PM
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Kells - 5-Jan-19 @ 12:51 AM
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Zaffy - 7-Nov-18 @ 9:56 PM
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job advert asked for a Centre Superintendent to supervise cleaners etc. 6years later told I did not supervise cleaners. is this false advertising??
law - 12-Sep-18 @ 12:22 PM
I bought a "3 seater" reclining sofa and footstool from a large, very well known UK furniture retailer through their website - the sofa arrived 23 days ago and the footstool arrived just 4 days ago. The sofa has a fairly large gap between the two recliners which did NOT show at all in the pictures on the site.When sitting either side, the gap widens, so phones etc keep falling through it. It is not suitable as a 3 seater as nobody can sit comfortably on a gap! I reported it immediately to the delivery driver and the following day to their customer service. I was advised that the gap would lessen over time. It has in fact got worse/bigger since delivery. Also the two recliners do not close evenly at the front - one sticks out more than the other. The footstool arrived damaged/broken. The feet had been broken off and where they had just tried to force them back in they also damaged the inside. When calling them about the footstool 4 days ago I also told them again about the problems with the sofa, providing images too. I have been passed around several staff members and have asked for a full refund on both items - 7 times now - as the furniture is not fit for purpose, it's damaged and faulty. They have not so far agreed to a refund, claiming that "people need to speak to people"! They say that the gap in the sofa is "normal" and acceptable - though again it is not on the images on their site at all! I can only see it getting worse. And I do not want them to "try and rectify" the problem where the recliners don't close evenly, or wait a further 8 weeks for a replacement footstool as this furniture is clearly rubbish. The service manager who called out was really uncaring and unhelpful, saying "he was expecting at least 2 inch gap"(!) because I had complained and the gap we have "is acceptable". When I said that nobody could sit in the middle of this "3 seater" sofa" he replied with "people do"!! I have, this week, provided their customer service team with several images of every problem with both items. I am within the 30 day period and from all I have read about the Consumer Rights Act 2015 I have the right to reject the furniture and request this refund. Which I have done. What are your thoughts please? If they continue to ignore or reject my request, what can I do?
Emm - 10-Aug-18 @ 11:16 AM
If a retailer advertises delivery to store within 3-5 working days, but then do not meet this timescale can I take this further. I assume I can get a full refund, but retailers should not be falsely advertising criteria they can not meet. I ordered from this particular retailer because of the delivery date needed. Thanks
Clareeee - 27-Jul-18 @ 11:13 PM
Shelley- Your Question:
I bought a remote control car for my grandson on Groupon on the advert it clearly says rechargeable battery and cable and requires 2 batteries this is not correct. There is not a rechargeable battery nor cable and needs 6 batteries I have returned it but its false advertisement can they do this? I have scteen shots of both.

Our Response:
They should remove the advertisement if it's incorrect. You consumer rights mean you can return as it's "not as described" for a full refund.
OnlineShoppingRights - 24-Jul-18 @ 11:55 AM
I bought a remote control car for my grandson on Groupon on the advert it clearly says rechargeable battery and cable and requires 2 batteries this is not correct. There is not a rechargeable battery nor cable and needs 6 batteries I have returned it but its false advertisement can they do this? I have scteen shots of both.
Shelley - 23-Jul-18 @ 5:22 PM
Hi, I recently purchased a small item and was charged £33 for UPS delivery. The item has arrived but has been sent by Royal Mail to which he paid £6.50 for. Is he legally allowed to do this? He’s clearly conned me by claiming it’s being sent by UPS courier to justify his charges then posted it himself via Royal Mail!
Gill - 6-Jul-18 @ 7:24 AM
Annie - Your Question:
Hi. I've ordered a set of glass storage containers from DOMU, sadly they were falsely advertised. The website said that they were "freezer, microwave and oven safe" however the notice that came inside the box highlights clearly that they are NOT (the word 'not' written in bigger and bold letters) "freezer, microwave nor oven safe". I've contacted DOMU straight away, I've even provided a screenshot of the product on the website as well as a picture of the notice received together with the items. But I feel they are trying to drag this along as long as they can, taking days to reply to my emails and not being helpful when they doing so. I cannot return these items without a return slip, the return slip wasn't in the box I received (and I know it should have been) and now DOMU wants to charge me £3.99 to provide me with the return slip because they say the items are UNWANTED. They are NOT unwanted: I would have kept them if they were the items that had the same characteristics as the items I thought I was buying. There is clearly some kind of a professional misconduct going on here, so what can I do? What can I do to return these items without paying for the return slip so I can get reimbursed? Thanks a lot in advance

Our Response:
If you ordered the items online, you can return them if you don't want them OR if they're not as described. We've checked DOMU's terms and conditions and some of the information does not comply with consumer rights legislation (such as their statement " We will not refund to you the original delivery charges relating to the returned product." )
The retailer MUST refund the originally delivery costs for returned items whether unwanted or faulty. You can be asked by the retailer to pay the cost of the return posted for items that are not wanted but if they are faulty or as in your case "notas described" the retailer should pay the cost of returning the items. If you have evidence that the online description was incorrect, tell DOMU that you are referring this to trading standards and suggest you might take it to the small claims court. Hopefully that will be sufficient.
OnlineShoppingRights - 12-Jun-18 @ 3:16 PM
Hi. I've ordered a set of glass storage containers from DOMU, sadly they were falsely advertised. The website said that they were "freezer, microwave and oven safe" however the notice that came inside the box highlights clearly that they are NOT (the word 'not' written in bigger and bold letters) "freezer, microwave nor oven safe". I've contacted DOMU straight away, I've even provided a screenshot of the product on the website as well as a picture of the notice received together with the items. But I feel they are trying to drag this along as long as they can, taking days to reply to my emails and not being helpful when they doing so. I cannot return these items without a return slip, the return slip wasn't in the box I received (and I know it should have been) and now DOMU wants to charge me £3.99 to provide me with the return slip because they say the items are UNWANTED. They are NOT unwanted: I would have kept them if they were the items that had the same characteristics as the items I thought I was buying. There is clearly some kind of a professional misconduct going on here, so what can I do? What can I do to return these items without paying for the return slip so I can get reimbursed? Thanks a lot in advance
Annie - 11-Jun-18 @ 12:06 PM
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
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