July 25, 2024

7 out of 10 of Welsh consumers have experienced potential rip-offs online, worrying new CMA research reveals

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  • In a poll of UK adults, 7 out of 10 Welsh adults have experienced misleading online practices
  • 88% of Welsh consumers believed businesses using them were being dishonest with their customers
  • And 86% were less likely to buy from them in the future

The CMA has recently launched a brand-new campaign “The Online Rip-Off Tip-Off” to help shoppers spot and avoid misleading online practices that could result in them being ripped off.

With almost one-third of all retail purchases now taking place online, after the pandemic fuelled a surge in internet shopping, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has become increasingly concerned about the impact of these “sneaky” sales tactics on consumers.

The research shows that these practices, which are carefully designed to manipulate shoppers, can lead to wasted time and money, as well as anxiety and stress, and so cause people significant financial and emotional harm. It revealed that 70% of Welsh people shopping online had encountered these tactics, and around half (48%) described their experience as negative. This is exacerbated by the fact they are also often hard for people to spot or know how to avoid.

The survey also revealed that, of those who had experienced misleading online tactics, 94%  were concerned about subscription traps, followed by hidden charges (90%), fake reviews (83%) and pressure selling (42%).

To tackle this, and further support its enforcement work, the CMA is launching its “The Online Rip-Off Tip-Off” campaign, fronted by TV presenter and consumer champion Angellica Bell.

Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s Chief Executive, explained:

“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.”

He added: “None of us would accept these tactics in the real world. But we might not realise how much they influence what we buy online. So, we’ve launched “The Online Rip-Off Tip-Off” to help hand the power back to shoppers.

“We continue to crack down on practices that could break the law, such as fake reviews. But to tackle this problem from all angles, its 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.”

According to the UK-wide survey, many Welsh respondents reported that they had wasted money on a disappointing product or experience, spent cash they couldn’t afford to or wasted time trying to undo the harm caused. 88% of those questioned believed the businesses using such practices are being dishonest with their customers, with further 86% being less likely to buy from them in the future.

Angellica Bell, co-presenter of The Martin Lewis Money Show, sets out why it’s so important to know what you might be up against when shopping online:

“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 also has the support of Citizens Advice, to whom consumers can report problems with misleading practices that they have encountered online.

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.

“We hope ‘The Online Rip-off Tip-off’ campaign helps shoppers spot underhand sales tactics – like offers that seem too good to be true or any pressure to buy now, and report them.

“By doing this we can help to bring unscrupulous traders to book, and all shop safer online.”

 

The aim of the Online Rip-off Tip-Off campaign is to make consumers aware of these misleading online practices and provide tips on how to avoid them. Find out more at www.gov.uk/ripoff-tipoff

If people in Wales want further advice or wish to report a concern they should contact Citizens Advice.