Unfair pricing strategies must stop Retailers must be upfront on charges, says OFT

09 December 2010

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Retailers must be up front about what they charge for goods and services, the Office of Fair Trading has warned. Tactics such as adding hidden charges, and time-limited offers that encourage people to buy without considering the consequences, must stop.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has pledged to crack down on financial and consumer goods and services retailers that use approaches such as price dripping - the practice of adding booking or card processing charges to transactions. Advertising prices that are misleading is a breach of Consumer Protection Regulations, and retailers have been warned the use of such tricks must stop.

The OFT's investigation into unfair pricing strategies covered a wide range of retail areas, including online shopping and  . It did not indicate which companies or sectors it would be scrutinising, but issued a general warning to all.   

Misleading pricing

Office of Fair Trading chief executive John Fingleton said: 'Misleading pricing is not only bad for the consumer, it is also bad for competition, and creates an uneven playing field between fair dealing businesses that stick to the spirit of the law and those that push the boundaries too far. We urge all firms to review their pricing practices and to get their houses in order where necessary.' 

The report states that the OFT 'will look to see whether there appears to be significant movement in the areas where we have identified the highest potential for consumer harm and, working with our enforcement partners, take targeted follow-up enforcement action if necessary'.

OFT enforcement must happen

Which? principal economist John Holmes said: 'The OFT's work has taken 14 months to deliver a damning verdict against confusing and mis-leading pricing practices that Which? has found are all too common. Consumers should not be expected to forensically examine each and every price offer, but should be able to shop with confidence. In the coming weeks we must see the OFT take prompt and effective enforcement action against those firms that exploit hidden charging practices.'

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