Websites offering special deals on products, services, meals out and beauty treatments have really exploded over the past year, and the once sparse market now includes Groupon, Wowcher and Living Social. However, issues with the way Groupon goes about its business has seen the voucher giant given a slap on the wrist by the Office of Fair Trading this week.
After an investigation, the OFT said that it had identified problems with pricing, “unfair terms”, refunds, the way Groupon advertises its offers and “the diligence of its interactions with merchants”. Groupon now has a three month deadline to implement the required changes to its practices, which could spell good news for those customers who feel they have been taken for a ride by the site in the past.
Commonly reported issues with Groupon include firms being unable to cope with demand on their services following a Groupon offer, exaggerated claims and limitations on deals which are not made clear to the consumer, and over the next 12 weeks the site will be putting new procedures and practices in place to tackle these problems.
Anyone who applies for a refund after buying a Groupon offer will also be given a much swifter service and given their full cancellation rights.
Commenting on the case, Cavendish Elithorn from the OFT said: “The market is growing rapidly, but it is important that consumers benefit from consumer protection law as well as from the discounted offers.”
Groupon said it is taking the concerns of the OFT “very seriously” and conceded that its “processes and procedures” have not always been in keeping with its “rapid growth”.
With 50 million people globally signing up for their daily deals email newsletter, specific to their area, there is certainly a lot of scope for complaint but to avoid any issues, customers need to go into using Groupon with their eyes open.
Online brand coordinator at Add People Carly Meacher offers the following advice.
“The term ‘too good to be true’ has been frequently passed around when describing Groupon, and customers need to ensure that they buy with caution. If you’re considering buying a Groupon deal, you need to be as flexible as possible on your dates and take the time to read the terms and conditions. Also be prepared to be put on hold when booking your deal, as there are usually several hundred customers trying to do exactly the same.”