'Misleading' Black Friday offers uncovered by Which? investigationShops are exaggerating discounts in many cases

16 November 2016

A Which? investigation has discovered that many Black Friday 2015 special offers at two major UK electrical shops were potentially misleading, and may have breached consumer protection rules.

Our extensive investigation into 2015 Black Friday deals uncovered numerous examples of offers from AO and Currys that we think break government guidelines by making discounts look a lot more impressive than they actually were. 

In one case, Currys claimed shoppers were saving £450 on a TV, when in fact it should have listed the saving as £50.

When promoting a discount like ‘was £100, now £50’, the ‘was’ price should be the most recent price the item was sold at for 28 consecutive days or more, and not a price that is more than six months old. But we found numerous examples where that wasn't the case. 

The gallery below highlights some of the so-called special offers that our investigation uncovered. To make sure you don't get duped by a dodgy deal in the run up to Christmas, read our guide to checking if a Black Friday deal is real.

Black Friday deals deconstructed

Currys listed the LG 43UF680V TV at £449 (‘was £899’) on Black Friday, but this apparently stonking saving wasn’t worth the virtual paper it was written on, as it hadn’t sold the TV at £899 since the August before. The TV was going for a considerably more modest £499 from late August until early October - so this should’ve been the ‘was price’ instead.

In another case, AO listed the Bosch Series 6 WAT28460GB washing machine as £399 (‘was £529’) on Black Friday. Its website said that the washing machine had been sold at £529 for 19 days – but during 2014. 

Guidelines for special offers say that you should only use ‘was prices’ from the last six months. We’re baffled as to why it didn’t just say ‘was £499’ – after all, it had been selling it at that price for nearly three months before Black Friday.

We think these and other offers we found breach consumer protection rules, and have reported them to the Competition and Markets Authority.

Are Black Friday deals really cheaper?

The hype around Black Friday creates the impression of prices slashed to a historic low level for one day only, but our research shows that few Black Friday deals really follow this pattern.

We recorded every deal we spotted on Black Friday 2015 on the websites of Amazon, AO, Argos, Currys and John Lewis for 20 popular types of tech gadgets and home appliances. We tracked prices on these 178 deals every day for the three months before Black Friday and the two after. 

In this five-month period, Black Friday was only the cheapest or joint-cheapest day to buy the product half of the time (90 out of the 178 deals). 

And just 8% of the deals were one-day-only offers, whereby Black Friday was cheaper than any other day.

Which? director of Campaigns and Communications Vickie Sheriff said: 'Shoppers might be surprised to learn that only half of Black Friday deals are actually cheapest on Black Friday. If you’re thinking about starting your Christmas shopping around Black Friday, do your research as some ‘deals’ may not be all they’re cracked up to be.'

You can read the full Black Friday investigation in the December 2016 issue of Which? magazine.

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