The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has announced that it will investigate online group-buying giant Groupon following repeated advertising violations.
Groupon was found to have breached UK advertising regulations 48 times in 11 months and was referred to the OFT by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The ASA has made 11 formal rulings against Groupon, and a further 37 judgements over breaches which have not been released.
The news follows a recent Which? investigation into group-buying sites which uncovered a range of problems, including discounts based on the maximum you could pay, extensive exclusions and hidden costs.
Adverts in breach of the ASA code
The most recent breach by Groupon saw the ASA ban a promotional email offering discounted cosmetic surgery, an issue identified by Which? in our report. Which? also issued a complaint to the ASA about rival group-buying site Wowcher, leading to an illegal Botox advert being withdrawn.
Some of the most common deals on group-buying sites are cosmetic treatments, such as laser hair-removal and laser teeth-whitening. In our investigation we found an offer for a dental i, including bone augmentation and crown, as well as a variety of offers for laser eye-surgery and teeth-whitening.
Which? Researcher Nicolas Frankcom said: ‘We don’t think invasive cosmetic treatments should be marketed through time-limited deals. People should take their time to properly weigh up the risks and benefits and properly research the treatment and providers.’
While group-buying sites offer heavily discounted products, there is a range of other online discounts available, including voucher code and cashback sites, that don’t come with the same time limitations.