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Misleading Advertising and Online Shopping

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 10 Nov 2020 | 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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Hi, I bought a wig from an on line with a co.uk domain name and a UK address. The wig was not as described and there were a number of faults and flaws. This was not as pictured and advertised visually and also in the description. The structure was not as described. I sent 6-7 pictures showing the details and put it on. The support person wanted me to buy another and they would give me 20%off a new one. I declined due to further issues which might arise. I was then asked to return the wig however I would have to pay return postage $40-£50, and there would be no guarantee that sending it back would not get lost. It took a month for the wig to arrive. I am now in week two. As mentioned, I mentioned more than 7 faults. It is a shocking looking wig. What can I do, I have changed a few emails and I have heard nothing since Friday. The manufacturer in in China. This was posted by Hermes with no international stamping. Any advise would be so appreciated. This cost over £100.00. Many thanks.
Kiki - 10-Nov-20 @ 12:59 PM
I bought two Star Wars speakers off the internet and are not as described. The measurements they show in the advert are double the size of the products I received. I have been mislead, I do not want a refund, I want what was described. If I send them back, I am not guaranteed any replacements before Christmas, I bought these early for my sons Xmas present. Plus I do not trust this company to do the right thing.
Skelly - 27-Oct-20 @ 7:35 AM
I bought a item from a website and it's in the uk and still not received I've sent emails with no response from them also the phone number does not work I've also looked on Google map where they r but not showing on there I'm not of pocket from this which I'll try and get from my bank,also they keep moving the delivery date
Boner - 4-Oct-20 @ 4:39 PM
Hi had the misfortune to use HERMES to deliver a birthday present to my daughtera mere journey of 38 miles. Supposed to be avTWO day delivery I also paid a premium to insure the item for £40 in case of loss or damage After three days it hadn’t arrived to contacted HERMESwith great difficulty to be told “THE VAN HAD BROKEN DOWN AND IT WOULD TAKE A FURTHER WEEK TO DELIVER” I asked them why a company as big as HERMES couldn’t hire a replacement van in a matter of hours? NO REPLY!!! After the extended week passed still no parcel deliverywas told to track it.But all I got every day was the message UNABLE TO DELIVER WILL TRY THE NEXT WORKING DAY. a load of cobblers!! I then used the website RESOLVER. To help and ended up with 84 pages of case files and all their advisors were spouting the same old liesand asked I requested my £40 as paid for. They all gave this a body swerveand eventually stopped responding to the resolver messages. I then contacted the consumers advice council who sent me a draft letter to send them with the proviso that if they didn’t answer it would be used as evidence in any court proceedings. So I don’t expect to hear from them within the stipulated 14 days I am sure the court will find in my favor as I have the receipt of the transaction in their own logoclearly stating I had paid for the added protection. So I advise anyone thinking of using this firm. DONT! Don’t!! And read the reviews online about them they should be on the ROGUE TRADERS SPOT.ON BBC WATCHDOG PROGRAM. I SUGGESTED TO THEM TO CHANGE THEIR NAME FROM “HERMES” (the messenger of the gods) to “WELLS FARGO” who were another COWBOY OUTFIT ONCE AGAIN DO NOT TRUST THIS COMPANY. THEY DONT DELIVER AND THEY DONT LIKE TO COMMUNICATE WITH THEIR CUSTOMERS BY THE WAY ALL CORRESPONDENCE I HAD WITH THEM THROUGH RESOLVER SEEMED TO BE COMING THOUGH INDIA AS ALL THE ADVISERS HAD INDIAN SOUNDING NAMES.AND THEY SEENED TO BE USING PRE WRITTEN EXPLANATIONS. JUST PUTTING MY DETAILS IN SPACES RESERVED FOR THE PURPOSEAS FROM SIX ADVISERS. THE WORDING WAS IDENTICAL. STICK WITH THE POST OFFICE. YOU ARE SAFER REGARDS THE OLD CODGER
Old codger - 3-Oct-20 @ 9:50 AM
I ordered Liberty “PURE SILVER” $1 coins online & when I asked for proof of authenticity, the company (in China) couldn’t provide any & said I have to pay to return them if I want a refund. They look great but I bought them because it claimedthey were “pure silver”. The markings say they are but the company can’t verify it.
Li - 8-Sep-20 @ 5:52 PM
I ordered an inflatable hot tub from the range. They have delivered garden furniture and not the hot tub I ordered. It states on their website that online purchases can be returned to any store. I tried to do this but the store refused saying the online business is separate. I have tried phoning customer services but calls are not answered. I have emailed but the email has not been opened. What should I do?
Deb - 26-Jul-20 @ 9:42 AM
???? THE 4 FOR £30 OFFER IS BACK ???? *?????? *???????????????????? ?????????????????? *???????? ??????????'?? *??????????'?? *?????????? ?????????? *?????????? ?????????????? *?????? ??????????'?? Available in 14mm pop up's, 14mm wafters, 13x11mm dumbels with dedicated ?????????? ??????????!! If you ordered the above what would you expect to receive?
Cj - 15-Jul-20 @ 6:23 AM
I am really annoyed on all the clickbait adverts that offer low prices on companies genuine website and they never have items in stock. One such example is kitchenaid that has started its summer offers even though were in spring and they dont have stock available that's on offer. Why advertise and not have stock. I've sent 3 emails and no response I phoned them and lady told me new stock would arrive in july...its 2nd June and they have not had stock since april!! But as soon as offers expire they have stock
Bill - 2-Jun-20 @ 4:21 PM
I bought a mattress through wowcher, the description clearly stated the features of it. When the mattress arrived cosmetically it looked the same but it was obvious that it didn’t have the features stated in their description. I went onto the website of the supplier and whilst they’ve both used the same image they describe it completely differently and the key features mentioned on wowcher (that made me buy it) are not mentioned on there at all. I’ve contacted wowcher and said I want the item returned and a full refund issued as I feel I’ve been misled because the product does not match their description of the item and none of the descriptions match. I know from having read online since I received this item that its possible I’ll only get wowcher credit which is no good to me. I now don’t trust the site and I have to replace this mattress. I’m waiting for them to reply but I’m wondering as I used PayPal as my chosen payment method if I can seek my refund through them, on the grounds of the item being mis-sold to me if wowcher refuse to give me my money back ?
Karet11 - 2-Oct-19 @ 5:41 AM
Hi I recently brought a bed from bed universe, the bed delivered is different from the one they advertised on their website, the quality is no where near the standard in the photo, the headboard and foot board are different and also I purchased due to being able to store underneath, upon arrival there is no gap to be able to do this as in the photo.What can I do?
Cheri - 25-Sep-19 @ 8:07 AM
Bought a 1 litre stainless steel teapot online through Amazon. It was delivered in a box stating it was 1 litre capacity 35 fl oz. It fact it is only 3/4 litre 30 fl oz. I have sent message back through Amazon asking if they've put the wrong size pot in the box. To date no response from them. What can I do about this. ?
Simmo - 12-Sep-19 @ 4:15 PM
Hi, I purchased a bike online.The sizing info clearly stated small frame size should fit from 150cm height upwards. I didn't have the opportunity to test the bike as the store was shutting and wasn't offered that as an option. I am 158cm tall so I should easily fit the bike.Unfortunately the way I get on bikes is always to stand on one pedal and roll before swinging over the other leg, so I didn't immediately notice the standover height - not until a mile or so later when I tried to stop.I actually can't touch the ground over the crossbar - with extreme tip toes and leaning sideways only can I stand over the crossbar.This is despite being 8cm taller than the minimum advertised size.Bikes normally have a couple of inches standover clearance.I'd expect to at least be able to stand over touching the crossbar.My legs are short but average for my height.I measured the bike (alledgedly for 150cm person) and from the crossbar to the ground it measures over 32" - which is above average leg length. It's a very expensive bike costing every penny I had (plus overdraft) at 1600 pounds!I can't safely stop on it despite buying it for mountain biking trails.It's a complete nightmare.Do I have any grounds for return?Or do I have to hope it breaks down (it's an e bike)?
steffers1 - 19-Aug-19 @ 9:26 PM
My son applied for his first tax rebate online and the top website on google was “the tax repayment agency” which he was misled into believing this was the government website- in fact they are a private company that once you register with them take 40% of your rebate and you have to use them for the next two years as well! This seems so unfair and misleading! The HMRC seem unable to help?
Nick - 26-Jul-19 @ 6:30 AM
Advert from Jeep UK website about their Sat Nav, problem is maps are over 4 years old, so many roads, junctions and speed limits have changed.So doesn't work, trying to take you in to forbidden areas. Very misleading advert as Sat Nav is of limited use. NAVIGATION SYSTEM WITH 3D MAPS Uconnect™ has joined forces with leaders in navigation to make sure you know where you are, your destination, and how long it will take you to get there. Maps will guide you through traffic, while merging and turning using sensor assisted GPS. Turn-by-turn guidance is provided through audio directions and voice prompts. Uconnect™ 8.4" DAB Radio Nav LIVE offers a large, 8.4-inch touchscreen, with 3D graphics and many external selectors for more comprehensive and practical access to every function, including the climate control and audio system controls. The Bluetooth® connectivity supports voice commands and streaming audio. The Uconnect™ system also includes USB port, SD card reader and DAB radio.
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
A company in Leicester Aluminium Roofline Products ltd Post Code LE19 1WA , are selling Legacy Cast Aluminium Gutter, which is not cast it is extruded. Thereby fooling people in to thinking they are buying a quality gutter, when it is really much cheaper extruded, disguised with textured paint.
0434 - 17-Jun-19 @ 4:47 PM
I bought a pixel 3 from the google store which came with a £150 credit on the google store which would be applied to my google account within 4-6 weeks. I got an email stating the credit had been applied to my account, it had not, i have been going back and forth with customer services for 2 months and they will not apply the credit, they keep fobbing me off with some story about it being investigated by a specialist team. They have acknowledged on email that i bought the phone within the promotional period, and they have acknowledged that the credit has not been applied to my account. Are they legally obliged to honour this promotion and can i force them to apply the credit or provide me a full refund, despite the purchase being 4-5 months ago now?
Jon - 21-May-19 @ 4:09 PM
I bought a TV wall bracket online that clearly stated in the advert that it 'fits all Sony 32" TVs'. It has arrived and it does not fit my, brand new, Sony TV. They have said they will take it back but they say I have to pay return costs. It's a heavy item so it will not be cheap to return and, as I only bought it because of their false advertising, this does not seem fair. What are my rights here?
cp60 - 30-Apr-19 @ 1:36 PM
I have recently bought a kitchenaid accessory from Curry's PC World and the image of the product is clearly metal but the description states it is plastic. I ordered this part as it was a metal product but received a plastic one. Does the image have to be correct/match the description of the product?
Stephen95 - 9-Apr-19 @ 1:56 PM
I paid for bed sofa lamp and table from a online person called crystal Elliot I was supposed to have delivery two months ago I’ve contacted her and she making excuses all the time I’ve asked for refund for two weeks and still haven’t received it ????I paid her thru money transfer
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
Used Marine hotel in Tankerton Kent for a Birthday party and decided to look at the online menu.One of the main dishes was "Locally landed " StoneBass, I believe this is farmed and comes mainly from Greece and Turkey. Shepard Neame also sells this in other inns and hotels. Is this advert designed to enhance the product description and is this fraud. Iposted a complaint to the online website to Shepard Neame 7days ago but have not had a reply so decided to contact you as well, hope this is the right thing to do. Fed up with mis-leading advertising.
Smooth hound - 5-Feb-19 @ 12:54 PM
Hi. I seen a bed advertised on Black Friday on woucher. It’s was advertised as being a 570 pound bed, reduced to 229.99. From furniture Italia. The bed that I received was not worth 100 pound, very badly made and defiantly not a memory foam mattress. They have told me that if I want to return it. It will be a change of mind so have to pay 50 pound to return it. Can they do this. I’m having a terrible time making them except that they have not sent me that was advertised. Wowcher were awful with me not helping at all.
Kells - 5-Jan-19 @ 12:51 AM
Hi all Today i seen a mercedes E220D AMG LINE Premium plus edition for £24980 advertised at mercedes dealer website. So i enquired about it via email and had a responce to say it was available so questions started going back and forth and i really like the car. Cut a long story short they wanted a £1000 deposit wich i prepaid but just befor he took the payment he told me the total balance was £37000 for the car!!! Now told him this is what it is advertised for and what a coincidence he couldnt find the advert,and said no chance we would sell it for that price and its a mistake. So i argued further and wasnt getting anywere. I just finished with i will be taking this further as you are false advertisement. Just want to no if i could actually take this further and get the car for the price i seen it advertised for ?? As the dealer aint budging!!
Zaffy - 7-Nov-18 @ 9:56 PM
I have just made a purchase from Matalan for a pair of trousers which I need quickly for work I saw they did next day delivery for £4.95 so as it was Friday thought they would arrive on Saturday in time for work. Saturday morning I had not had a dispatch email so when I checked my account it said delivery was Tuesday. As I had purchased them quickly I had not looked at the delivery times as next day to me means next day. I finally got through to customer service (which is in Bulgaria ) and said as they were not going to turn up in time and had not been dispatched I wanted to cancel the order and get a complete refund including the delivery charge. I was told to refuse the delivery when it turns up and I would get a refund including the delivery. I think this is wrong and they will charge me for the delivery. Arethey allowed to do this
sparkly girl - 20-Oct-18 @ 11:57 AM
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
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