As the summer sales approach, beware of fake promos on e-commerce platforms. A study by UFC-Que Choisir, published on Wednesday, highlights this dishonest but widespread practice. After analyzing a sample of more than 6000,3 ads displaying a crossed price, the consumer association says that "only 4.<>% of them correspond to real promotions operated by sellers", in accordance with the European directive called "Omnibus", which came into force a year ago.
A directive which requires that the display of a price reduction be made on the basis of the price 'lowest charged by the trader to all consumers during the last thirty days preceding the application of the price reduction'. Faced with the abuses observed, the UFC-Que Choisir announced to file a complaint against eight e-commerce sites (Amazon, ASOS, Cdiscount, E.Leclerc, La Redoute, Rue du Commerce, Veepee and Zalando) for "misleading commercial practices".
In detail, the consumer association notes that, to circumvent the regulations in force, in 96.6% of the ads studied, e-commerce sites "display promotions based not on price reductions over the last 30 days, but on the concept of so-called 'comparison' pricing". A concept that gives more leeway to platforms, the legislation surrounding it being "imprecise", notes the association.
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Handling and inflated reductions
A vagueness "exploited on a large scale by professionals, a situation evidenced by the plethora of allegations present on the market", castigates the UFC-Que Choisir, citing the mentions "Recommended selling price" or "PVC", "Originally", "Old price" or "Average price on the marketplace". Worse, "if this multitude of claims was not enough to confuse consumers, merchants present these comparison prices exactly like discount prices," laments the association in its study, accompanying its demonstration with a screenshot of a search result for a laptop on Amazon. "Fake promotions" are presented in exactly the same visual style as a discount ad that complies with regulations.
Beyond the presentation, "comparison prices are often calculated in a less transparent and objective way than for price reductions," says UFC-Que Choisir. More specifically, their "definition is often buried in the general conditions of sale or simply non-existent". "Where it is available, it is frequently based on data held exclusively by the merchant. [...] In cases where it can be verified, the seller sometimes even manipulates the comparison price, consciously choosing the one that allows to display the highest discount!", develops the association. It is therefore difficult, if not impossible, for the consumer to understand what these crossed out prices really cover.
Thus, these schemes allow e-merchants to inflate the discounts displayed. On the ads analyzed, for discount prices in accordance with the regulations, the average reduction amounts to 6%, against 26.5% for comparison prices, notes the UFC-Que Choisir. In addition to filing a complaint against eight platforms, the association reports that it has seized the European Commission to ask it to "strictly prohibit" this entire comparison price system, which the UFC-Que Choisir believes is used only to "artificially inflate the reference price and make the consumer believe in a real promotion".