24th January 2024

Fake reviews and drip pricing banned

Potentially misleading online practices are to be outlawed this year as part of the DMCC Bill

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team

Online fake reviews and hidden charges – also known as ‘drip pricing’ – are to be banned under new rules in the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers (DMCC) Bill.

The legislation, which is expected to come into force in the spring, follows a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) consultation into potentially unfair business practices.

Drip pricing involves a consumer being given an initial price for a product or service which is then inflated with additional charges as they progress through the transaction.

Government research suggests that the practice is widespread and occurs in more than half of providers in the entertainment (54%) and hospitality (56%) industries, and across almost three quarters (72%) of the transport and communication sectors.

The Department for Business and Trade says that every year, unavoidable fees cost consumers £2.2bn. Following the implementation of the new rules, fees that are mandatory will be required to be included in the headline price or at the start of the shopping process. Optional fees such as airline seat and luggage upgrades for flights will not be included in these measures.

Fake reviews will also be clamped down on under the new rules; reviews were found to be used by 90% of consumers and contributed to the £224bn spent in online retail markets in 2022, according to government figures.

In conjunction with the CMA, new guidance will be created in the coming months and fake reviews will be added to the list of banned practices, with website hosts held accountable for reviews on their pages.

The Price Marking Order (PMO), which requires traders to display the final selling price and, where appropriate, the final unit price (e.g., price per litre/kilogram) of products, will also be reformed.

Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business Kevin Hollinrake said: “From supermarket shelves to digital baskets – modern day shopping provides customers with more choice than ever before. But with that comes the increased risk of confusion, scams and traps that can easily cost the public more than they had planned.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates the clear steps we’re taking as a government to ensure customers can compare purchases with ease, aren’t duped by fake reviews, and have the sting of hidden fees taken away.”

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