14th February 2022

CMA targets online rip-offs

The CMA has launched a campaign to raise awareness of common misleading practices by online sellers.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
None of us would accept these tactics in the real world. But we might not realise how much they influence what we buy online

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched its new ‘Rip-off, Tip-off’ campaign to tackle a host of online activities that harm consumers, including hidden charges, pressure selling, subscription traps and fake reviews.

According to the CMA, more than 71% of consumers have fallen victim to misleading practices online, with many of them being difficult to spot.

CMA Chief Executive, Andrea Coscelli, said: “As online shopping grows and grows, we’re increasingly concerned about businesses using misleading sales tactics, like pressure selling or hidden charges, to dupe people into parting with their cash.

“None of us would accept these tactics in the real world. But we might not realise how much they influence what we buy online.”

The CMA’s research also reveals that, of those who have experienced misleading online practices, the biggest concern was about hidden charges (85% of respondents), followed by subscription traps (83%), fake reviews (80%) and pressure selling (50%).

The campaign is being fronted by TV consumer rights presenter Angellica Bell, who commented: “Sometimes we feel under pressure when buying online or often doubt whether a deal is too good to be true. Through the CMA’s ‘Online Rip-off Tip-off’ campaign, we want to help people, let them know the signs to look out for and how best to report a sneaky sales move.

“Just because you’re online and not on the high street, you can still take a moment to think about the purchase before you pay. Don’t feel pressured into anything, and make sure you shop around.”

The campaign includes a series of videos, presented by Bell, which highlight common misleading practices – and offer advice on how consumers can avoid them.

It is also being supported by Citizens Advice, to which consumers can report problems with misleading online practices.

Matthew Upton, Director of Policy at Citizens Advice, said: “While many firms play fair, too often we hear of online shoppers being duped by fake reviews, time-pressured claims or seriously dressed-up deals.”

Coscelli added: “We continue to crack down on practices that could break the law, such as fake reviews. But to tackle this problem from all angles, it’s vital shoppers are armed with the tools they need too. It’s only when we all know what these tricks are, and how they are designed to manipulate and mislead, that we are better equipped to avoid them.”

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