UK probes Wowcher for urgency claims online

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will examine whether Wowcher has misled consumers by using countdown timers and other urgency claims, which may place unfair pressure on consumers to complete their purchases quickly.

This announcement marks the next stage in the CMA's programme of enforcement work focussing on so-called 'Online Choice Architecture' (OCA), which aims to tackle potentially harmful online selling practices. It follows the launch of the CMA's investigation into Emma Sleep in late 2022. The CMA's investigation of Wowcher will also examine other online selling practices used by Wowcher, including how it enrols consumers in its membership scheme.

This investigation follows the publication of an open letter on 29 March from the CMA to UK businesses detailing 'online red lines' on misleading urgency and price reduction claims. It provides practical illustrations of where common online tactics may be misleading consumers or applying unfair pressure. The advice is for all businesses that sell or promote goods online to UK shoppers, so they can stop sales practices that could break the law.

Sarah Cardell, Chief Executive of the CMA, said:

People who buy online should not be pressurised by practices implying that they must act quickly to avoid missing out, when this is not the case. We'll be scrutinising these claims from Wowcher and if we find the company is using misleading online selling tactics, we won't hesitate to take enforcement action - through the courts if necessary.

This is the second investigation we have opened into urgency claims - which can be a type of pressure selling - and all companies should take note and review their own practices. We've published advice to help with this, which sets out clearly those online urgency and price reduction claims that are likely to mislead or put unfair pressure on consumers.


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