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Misleading Advertising and Online Shopping

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 9 Jun 2017 | 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 there,I bought a clock advertised in a leaflet from the Range.The ad said it was 24.99 and I later realised I had been charged 39.99 . I spoke to the Range who insist the clock pictured is not what I have bought.I referred matter to Advertising Standards Authority who are upholding my complaint,but the Range still refuse to give me the difference of £15 between the advertised price and the actual price charged. What can I do? Seems ridiculous a third party agrees I HAVE been misled,but the Range don't care!Thank you
ST - 9-Jun-17 @ 6:17 PM
We bought a dinning set via xquiste interiors. "Lovingly painted to high quality prepped, primed, painted + several coats wax. Professionally upholstered" . Its none of those things. Not prepped primed coats of paint or wax. 1 coat of paint that's coming off in layers to reveal dark brown paint. The professional upholstery isn't either. Its badly stapled on and to make it 100% worse the inner foam isnt safety foam! Its flammable. The local upholstery co took pics showing it up in flames. The company dont want to know, say they dont have to comply with any standards and refuse to converse or correct it. Apart from Trading Standards who can help us please.Apart from taking money under false pretences and lieing in their advertising they will end up causing a death with their non compliant material. Please help?
Mum1 - 6-Jun-17 @ 4:13 PM
I purchased a buggy from Kiddicare, their website and description says it is compatible with a car seat and is one of the main features highlighted. Once I put it together it turns out that it's compatible if you buy adapters to fit the car seat on, but it isn't compatible with a car seat on its own. It doesn't say you have to buy them anywhere or mention the adapters. I have complained and they said that because in the description they have put "The Nipper Sport has an array of additional accessories which make this buggy even more versatile" in the description it means that any of the features they state could be optional and won't let me return it. Any ideas on what I can do about it?
Charlotte - 1-Jun-17 @ 12:46 PM
Hi... I received an email from Toys r us offering me a 10ft pool and filter for £29.99, As I have an 8ft pool of same make (from toys r us) I clicked to buy the larger one. But when I clicked to buy the toys r us webpage opened and the price was at £54.99, I came off and tried again (through my email) and still got the £54.99 price, i still have the email so I contacted toys r us through their online enquiries twice and got no response so I called them and a guy called Robbie told me it was a typo error and it should of said 8ft pool as the 10ft pool is £54.99 I explained but that's enticing people onto your site by giving false pricing and he said there was nothing he could do and it was a just typo error. I told him I wasn't happy that I had no response to my enquiries and he said I could complain by emailing enquiries. Is there any point complaining???
Nick - 31-May-17 @ 5:22 PM
Jeannette - Your Question:
I made a vehicle hire booking online and provided credit card details for the deposit. On arriving at the car hire company they claimed the website price was a mistake and added 150 to the cost. Still advertising at said price on website. Can I legally hold them to that price

Our Response:
Check the terms and conditions that should have been made available to you at the time of your booking. You still have the right to a refund and to cancel if it's the company's error.
OnlineShoppingRights - 23-May-17 @ 12:15 PM
I made a vehicle hire booking online and provided credit card details for the deposit.On arriving at the car hire company they claimed the website price was a mistake and added 150 to the cost. Still advertising at said price onwebsite. Can I legally hold them to that price
Jeannette - 22-May-17 @ 10:43 AM
Hi, I bought a workout plan from an online coach where it stated it had a full 100% money back guarantee within 60 days. I've had the plan for around 30 days and have only put on weight and had difficulties sleeping. I've asked for the refund and the trainer said I had to send my meal plans and assessments as refund were only for people who'd done 60 days properly. It states this nowhere and I haven't kept any eating plans as i wasn't told to. Am I fully entitled to the refund? Is this false advertising and what rights do I have if he still refuses?
CH - 11-May-17 @ 1:07 PM
Rex- Your Question:
Hi I called at a tescos garage to buy M and Ms they were Advertised on the shelf save 50p price reduced to £1 ! When I looked closer the Weight says 121g - 140g so isn't definite!Also around the corner in the same shop they are selling M and M for £1.50 but the bag is 165g!I think this is misleading as you would think you are making a saving of 50p but you are actually getting less product is this misleading? The bags look similar I took photos!

Our Response:
As long as the bags were orignally for sale at the higher price (thus making the sale price valid), there isn't much you can do about this.
OnlineShoppingRights - 11-May-17 @ 12:22 PM
Hi I called at a tescos garage to buy M and Ms they were Advertised on the shelf save 50p price reduced to £1 ! When I looked closer the Weight says 121g - 140g so isn't definite! Also around the corner in the same shop they are selling M andM for £1.50 but the bag is 165g! I think this is misleading as you would think you are making a saving of 50p but you are actually getting less product is this misleading? The bags look similar I took photos!
Rex - 10-May-17 @ 6:56 PM
SPD1 - Your Question:
I purchased a jacked based on an advert on instagram. When the product arrived it was CLEARLY a completely different 'ripped off' version of that advertised - different material, form and structure etc. When I questioned this they just claimed it was EXACTLY as advertised and are refusing to refund me or accept a return claiming it's their policy as stated on their website that all purchases are final. I understand this, however only if you get the product you are expecting!! Where do I stand here? I have informed my credit card company and they are also investigating. Any advice gratefully received

Our Response:
Assuming this is an online retailer and not a private seller, then the Consumer Contracts Regulations apply and you have an automatic right to return any item purchased online within 14 days of receiving it (whether it's faulty or not). This allows for the fact that a photo cannot always portray the item as it is in "real life". Send a letter or email quoting the act to the retailer and return the items (with proof of purchase). If you do not receive a refund, make a claim via the small claims court and report to Trading Standards. You credit card company may also be able to help.
OnlineShoppingRights - 5-May-17 @ 11:01 AM
I purchased a jacked based on an advert on instagram. When the product arrived it was CLEARLY a completely different 'ripped off' version of that advertised - different material, form and structure etc. When I questioned this they just claimed it was EXACTLY as advertised and are refusing to refund me or accept a return claiming it's their policy as stated on their website that all purchases are final. I understand this,however only if you get the product you are expecting!! Where do I stand here? I have informed my credit card company and they are also investigating. Any advice gratefully received
SPD1 - 4-May-17 @ 2:01 PM
Helm - Your Question:
I found a discount code for 20% with iconic valid until 28.04.17 I tried to use code today and it would not work. I called and was told it's only off full price items I said it is it's a £350 jacket the guy said oh I think it'd finished so I said well you've advertised until tomorrow he said oh well it's not working. When I asked to speak to a manager I was told call back tomorrow I pointed out that the offer ends tomorrow and he said oh you can't have it then. What are my rights

Our Response:
If the advert stated a "valid until" date and you had adhered to any other terms and conditions, then you should make a complaint to the ASA and your local trading standards office.
OnlineShoppingRights - 28-Apr-17 @ 2:42 PM
I found a discount code for 20% with iconic valid until 28.04.17 I tried to use code today and it would not work.I called and was told it's only off full price items I said it is it's a £350 jacket the guy said oh I think it'd finished so I said well you've advertised until tomorrow he said oh well it's not working.When I asked to speak to a manager I was told call back tomorrow I pointed out that the offer ends tomorrow and he said oh you can't have it then.What are my rights
Helm - 27-Apr-17 @ 3:44 PM
Hi I purchased a MacBook Air from Very on 6th March 2017 after shopping around to find the best deal available. They had an offer on which gave you £150 credit automatically applied back to your account. I have chased 3 times, 2 of which they apologised and said it would show on my next statement. The £150 has not been applied to my account on the next statement. I complained to Very and they contacted me today and said they have never had an offer of this sort available and that they do have a 10% off offer but I do not qualify because I did not order in the timeframe. The offer was on their website even after I had ordered the product for up to a week or so. Now it is nowhere to be seen. Although I have searched on google and found a link but when you click on it the offer disappears. How can they have no record of an offer they had and have already apologised for not automatically applying back to my account. So confused and not sure where I stand with this as I have nothing with the £150 credit offer written on as it was just on the product description page. I wish I had taken a picture of it.
Millie - 19-Apr-17 @ 9:39 PM
I bought 2 sofas from dfs on 2 separate listings, when they delivered them they delivered 2 of each. I questioned this with the delivery man and he said they were all to be delivered to me. I went onto the eBay listing and the description stated 'not to be sold as individual pieces, only to be sold as s set' so I then assumed the set was 2 sofas and I'd received 4 due to 2 sets. I gave 2 sofas away the same day as I had no use for them. Now dfs are dating I must return them or pay for them. Where do I stand. I can't give them back now and can't afford to pay for them. The 2nd set were also damaged
Sadie - 13-Apr-17 @ 3:02 PM
unusual_shopper - Your Question:
Hi,I have seen a website showing these two pieces of banner adv's , one after another1. Free UK delivery and returns.2. Order by 5pm for next day delivery.but they do charge £6 for next day delivery , is this a misleading advertisement ?

Our Response:
No, they're quite clear and they are separate statements. Order by 5pm for next day delivery doesn't suggest it's free, it's just highlighting a deadline by which you need to order.
OnlineShoppingRights - 4-Apr-17 @ 2:16 PM
Hi, I have seen a website showing these two pieces of banner adv's , one after another 1. Free UK delivery and returns. 2. Order by 5pm for next day delivery. but they do charge £6 for next day delivery , is this a misleading advertisement ?
unusual_shopper - 3-Apr-17 @ 2:21 PM
Suz- Your Question:
I booked a holiday on Friday as it stated only 7 seats left at this price and then hotel I chose was Deal of the day. After booking price of holiday went down and got difference refunded through their price guarantee as noted with 48 hours. Price yesterday was down again ! I feel holiday was falsely advertised and I booked as thought I was getting a good deal. Still shows only 7 seats left and hotel as deal of the day as it has each day since booking. Am I entitled to cancel or get refund due to misleading advertisement

Our Response:
Probably not, especially as they have refunded you the difference. It would be worth asking them why there are still 7 seats left after you've made your booking though.
OnlineShoppingRights - 10-Mar-17 @ 11:48 AM
I booked a holiday on Friday as it stated only 7 seats left at this price and then hotel I chose was Deal of the day.After booking price of holiday went down and got difference refunded through their price guarantee as noted with 48 hours .Price yesterday was down again !I feel holiday was falsely advertised and I booked as thought I was getting a good deal.Still shows only 7 seats left and hotel as deal of the day as it has each day since booking.Am I entitled to cancel or get refund due to misleading advertisement
Suz - 9-Mar-17 @ 12:42 PM
What are my rights if the online seller makes a mistake on their website (under priced) then accepts your paypal money but then does not send the goods. Is the seller legally obliged to supply the goods or can they back out of the sale even though he made a pricing error on his website and has taken your money.
S - 3-Mar-17 @ 6:52 PM
I clicked on an advertisements for eyelash enhancer and with no payment they sent me some. I couldn't understand why i had them or the invoice. I returned them unopened the they got them back in Finland after their 30 day payment period. I have communicated with them and the have now added 30 pound none payment charge with the threat of debt collection. They have acknowledged in writing they have the goods. What should i do? Thanks Sharon
Ronny - 21-Jan-17 @ 9:40 AM
Hi On 8th Nov 2016i have bought tv made by LG which supposed to offer 4k 3840x2160 uhd resolution while in fact it only offer 2880x2160 with RGBW pixels instead of RGB. I have taken this case to Currys to return it under misleading advertisement, they told me to come to the shop gave me some special number for the case, and yet they have refused to take tv back due to me talking NERD ? No customer service whatsoever. Chasing it even further but not sure of the outcome, colours are not accurate and there is no black levels and tv cannot display one pixel wide black/white chequerboard which indicates inability to display native 4k content.
MrTvGuy - 18-Jan-17 @ 7:47 PM
Good day, two days ago I responded to a deal on the carphone warehouse website for a monthly contract with a Samsung A5 phone. The website advertised this deal and claimed it is recommended for you at £17.50p per month. When I phoned the number provided they informed me that this deal was not available but they could do it for £23.50p per month.I explained that it was £17.50 on the site and the operator said "I know I can see it at that price but it is not available at that price". Are they allowed to advertise something for one price only to tell you that it is actually a higher price?
Paul - 16-Jan-17 @ 8:20 PM
Church1 - Your Question:
An online shoe seller is advertising shoes at £425 "with free worldwide delivery". I want to buy them and send them to my brother in Spain. When I put the delivery address in the price changes to €590 with and indicated GBP equivalence of £512.95!!! That cannot be correct can it?

Our Response:
>it might be worth checking to see if there's a clause saying terms and conditions apply (this must be reasonably clear on the website however)
OnlineShoppingRights - 11-Jan-17 @ 12:29 PM
An online shoe seller is advertising shoes at £425 "with free worldwide delivery". I want to buy them and send them to my brother in Spain. When I put the delivery address in the price changes to €590 with and indicated GBP equivalence of £512.95!!! That cannot be correct can it?
Church1 - 10-Jan-17 @ 5:30 PM
InnovateRob - Your Question:
I know of a school furniture trader/manufacturer web site that is full of false information and images. As I feel this could be construed as fraudulent trading, to who and/or how can I report it?

Our Response:
The Advertising Standards Authority or the Trading Standards Office are good places to start.
OnlineShoppingRights - 6-Jan-17 @ 10:57 AM
I know of a school furniture trader/manufacturer web site that is full of false information and images. As I feel this could be construed as fraudulent trading, to who and/or how can I report it?
InnovateRob - 5-Jan-17 @ 11:20 AM
Turk - Your Question:
I recently bought a cry baby and omg I'm absolutely shocked at the sound. When purchased it states sounds like a real baby but it sounds like a woman having a lot of fun in the bedroom ?? How am I supposed to give it to my daughter knowing she copies everything

Our Response:
If the doll is not as described you can return it to the retailer within 30 days for a full refund.
OnlineShoppingRights - 19-Dec-16 @ 12:10 PM
JJ - Your Question:
I ordered a Samsung smart watch from a site called egloble central. The site said the watch was in Stock I ordered it paid with pay pal my money was taken out of my account the site has no record of my order but sent me confirmation I contacted them andv2 days later they said it was out of stock and that they would have it in Stock with in 2 to 3 days and give me tracking information still no info and the site says it is still in Stock they won't responded back to my emails. But they took my money

Our Response:
You haven't given us any idea of the timescales here. How long is it since you ordered the item?
OnlineShoppingRights - 19-Dec-16 @ 12:09 PM
I thought the ASA were funded by advertisers and therefore cannot be unbiased. They've made some pretty startling and obvious misjudgements that I've observed where there has been a large upswelling of public objection to an unfair advert and the ASA have dismissed the case. Who are THEY to decide hundreds or thousands of complainants are wrong?
hector heath - 19-Dec-16 @ 5:26 AM
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