Group-buying website Groupola has been reprimanded by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for ‘misleading’ consumers with an iPhone 4 deal that was simply too good to be true.
Last year, the site offered to sell Apple’s then-brand new blower, which at the time was retailing for £499, for a mind-boggling £99 if consumers were quick enough. A bar chart was published on the site depicting the number of units sold with a caption that said: "202 bought. The deal is still available to buy", implying a significantly greater number of handsets were in stock.
However, after investigating the offer, the OFT found that only eight handsets were sold. The deal was dubbed ‘bait pricing’ to entice punters into giving away their email addresses and purchasing other products on the site to be eligible for the deal. Only when mass volume of customers signed up for the deal was it ‘activated’.
The OFT even found that at least one Groupware employee pretended to be a regular customer and posted a positive review of his fictional transaction.
Heather Clayton of the OFT, said: "It is never acceptable for traders to pretend to be independent consumers. It is increasingly the case that people make purchasing decisions based on online peer recommendations and the OFT will continue to prioritise cases that protect the integrity of online consumer reviews and comments.
"Competitive markets, and economic growth, need fair and transparent promotional activity with consumers able to shop around and trust advertising of prices. This case demonstrates that, where necessary, we will take enforcement action. “
Groupola founder and chairman Mark Pearson, responded: "We would of course like to apologise to anyone who was disappointed with the promotion that we ran in July 2010. We worked closely with the Office of Fair Trading during their enquiries to ensure that nothing like this happens again.
"When the issue first arose, nearly nine months ago, we immediately carried out our own internal investigation as to the cause of the problems and the members of the team responsible for the promotion are no longer with the company."
Have you been dooped into Groupola’s deal or another similar offers by other companies? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.