The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is investigating Emma Sleep over concerns that some of its online sales practices may breach consumer law.
As part of its investigation, the CMA will examine whether Emma Sleep has misled consumers by using countdown timers and claims about time limits to imply that a discounted price will end soon, when this may not have been the case.
The CMA's announcement marks the start of a new programme of consumer enforcement work focused on so-called ‘online choice architecture’, aimed at tackling potentially harmful online selling practices, including pressure-selling tactics such as urgent time-limited claims.
The CMA’s consumer enforcement programme will look at online sales practices including: urgency tactics such as countdown clocks, where sellers put pressure on shoppers to buy quickly; and eye-catching discount offers, such as ‘50% off’ claims, when the real price reduction may not be as great as claimed.
Earlier this year, the CMA reported on how the way businesses present information and choices to consumers online can be used to influence people’s purchasing decisions, and identified 21 potentially harmful practices which are often used across the online economy.
The CMA also launched its Online Rip-Off Tip-Off campaign earlier this year, which revealed that 71% of people shopping online had encountered misleading selling tactics. The CMA offered tips to help shoppers spot and avoid practices that could result in them being ripped off. Alongside that campaign, the CMA says it will use its full range of powers to ensure that misleading selling practices are tackled from all angles.
Sarah Cardell, interim chief executive of the CMA, says: "Nearly all of us shop online, and it’s easier than ever to buy something at the click of a button. With the rising cost of living, genuine deals are worth shouting about – but companies using misleading ‘sale’ prices or fake countdown clocks can put unfair pressure on people to buy and could break consumer law.
"The CMA is today reminding businesses they should not use urgency claims to mislead consumers and, if they do, they face the risk of CMA action.
"This investigation into Emma Sleep is just the start of our work into potentially misleading online claims, and all sectors are under scrutiny. Companies should take note – look at your own practices and ensure they’re in line with the law."