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UFC-Que Choisir files a complaint against eight e-commerce sites, including Amazon, for "false promotions"

As the summer sales approach, watch out for fake promotions on e-commerce platforms.

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UFC-Que Choisir files a complaint against eight e-commerce sites, including Amazon, for "false promotions"

As the summer sales approach, watch out for fake promotions on e-commerce platforms. A study by UFC-Que Choisir, published this Wednesday, highlights this dishonest, although widespread, practice. After analyzing a sample of more than 6,000 ads displaying a crossed out price, the consumer association claims that "only 3.4% 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 "lowest price charged by the professional to all consumers during the last thirty days preceding the application of the reduction of price". Faced with the abuses observed, UFC-Que Choisir has announced that it is filing 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 advertisements studied, the e-commerce sites "display promotions based not on price reductions over the last 30 days, but on the so-called 'comparison' price concept'. A concept that gives platforms more leeway, the legislation surrounding it being “imprecise”, notes the association.

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 retail price” or “PVC”, “At the 'origin', 'Old price' or even 'Average price on the marketplace'. Worse, "if this multitude of allegations were not enough to confuse consumers, merchants present these comparison prices exactly like the discount prices", deplores the association in its study, accompanying its demonstration with a capture of screen of a search result for a laptop on Amazon. “Fake promotions” are presented in exactly the same visual style as a regulation-compliant discount ad.

Beyond the presentation, "the comparison prices are often calculated in a less transparent and objective way than for the price reductions", underlines the UFC-Que Choisir. Specifically, their “definition is often buried in the terms and conditions or simply non-existent”. “When this is available, it is frequently based on data exclusively held by the merchant. [...] In cases where it can be verified, the seller sometimes even manipulates the comparison price, knowingly choosing the one that allows the highest discount to be displayed! ”, 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 advertisements analyzed, for the reduction prices in accordance with the regulations, the average reduction amounts to 6%, against 26.5% for the comparison prices, notes the UFC-Que Choisir. In addition to filing a complaint against eight platforms, the association reports having seized the European Commission to ask it to "strictly prohibit" this whole system of comparison prices, which UFC-Que Choisir considers that it is used only for "artificially inflate the reference price and make the consumer believe in a real promotion".

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