A huge rise in sales is predicted on Black Friday this year, which takes place on 26 November despite some retailers being affected by ongoing supply shortages, a lack of lorry drivers and high shipping costs. In recent years many businesses have begun offering deals from the start of the month, leading some to rename it ‘Black November’. But how do we know if we’re really getting a good deal..?
Sales promotions such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Super Saturday (the last Saturday before Christmas) are often used as important marketing tools, widely believed to have an impact on some of the busiest annual shopping days and consumer spending behaviour. Last year’s Black Friday saw a shift towards online sales due to the various lockdown restrictions and retail stores being forced to shut down, however the dominance of e-commerce appears to be here to stay. Nevertheless, given the nature of consumer protection law and the regulatory framework in place, businesses must ensure that any promotions avoid being misleading to shoppers.
When advertising one price by reference to another, there is potential to mislead a customer and breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. These Regulations also contain a general ban on treating consumers unfairly, and retailers should be aware that this can be interpreted broadly. Failure to adhere to these Regulations can result in enforcement action, which is damaging to a business in many respects, not least its customer’s confidence in it.
One of the most common types of sales promotions are ‘price comparisons’ with the businesses’ own previous price as a benchmark; and when formulating price promotions, retailers need to be aware that reference pricing during sales periods call for high levels of trust and integrity and you should be able to have confidence to rely on the information provided. Businesses are required behave professionally, responsibly and demonstrably in accordance with the general principles of good faith.
Although the rules in this area are strict and retailers should be prepared to show how they have adhered to them, there are also measures that you can take to protect yourself over this busy shopping period. Don’t let your normal good purchasing habits lapse just because an item has been advertised as being a one-time price offer. Research by Which? 1 reports that 85% of products were the same price or cheaper at other times over a particular calendar year than on Black Friday of that same year and 98% either returned to their Black Friday price in the six months after, or fell to an even lower price.
In the run-up to the festive period, shoppers should be encouraged to do their own research and in particular to:
- Beware of fake reviews
- Don’t feel pressured. Ask, can you afford it? Do you need it?
- Shop around, do your own price comparisons or use online tools that are available.
- Don’t be afraid to ask is if it’s too good to be true? And walk away if you conclude that it is.
- And most importantly, don’t leave your usual good-shopping habits at the (virtual or otherwise) door.
Consumers do have rights to refunds or other remedies in certain circumstances and this depends upon the sales channel used. These rights are contained in the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Consumer Contracts Regulations (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.
When buying in store, you have an initial right to reject faulty goods and get a full refund (within 30 days and only if goods do not conform to contract, e.g. they are faulty). Following this, you may have to allow the seller to repair or replace the goods in the first instance and only if that is not possible or fails, will you be entitled to a refund (in full or in part depending on the age of the goods), or a price reduction. Crucially, when buying in a store, there has to be an issue with the goods before these remedies kick-in. Shops may have a more generous returns policy and you should check this in advance.
In addition to the rights you get in store, you also have a right to cancel contracts for goods purchased online by notifying the seller within 14 days from the day after the goods were delivered to you. You should be provided with information about this right by the seller and you may have to pay for the return postage or collection. There does not have to be an issue with the goods to enable you to exercise this right, but it is important you know what steps you have to take, how to contact the seller and make sure that you do so within the stipulated time.
Kevin Grix, CEO and Chief Ombudsman, Dispute Resolution Ombudsman said, “We’re seeing an increasing trend in shopping events such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Super Saturday being run over an extended period to help improve processes both online and in high streets across the UK. Over this busy period, businesses and their customers are given an extra layer of protection and reassurance that shopping with a retailer who is a member of a government approved Ombudsman scheme, will aid them in finding solutions when disputes occur, without having to use the courts which can be costly and time-consuming.
“This, in turn, promotes fair trade and inspires consumer confidence over what’s expected to be another peak trading period in the run-up to the festive season.”