Consumer caution warning as Black Friday approaches

November 23, 2023

It’s that time of year again when Black Friday advertising is inescapable.

Offers galore are touted on social media feeds, in broadcasting and newspapers in the run up to 24 November.

Buy, buy, buy, is the message, and do it quick in case the bargains do not last.

Since Black Friday and Cyber Monday became part of commercial culture, the prospect of bagging a pre-Christmas bargain has many people hunting for deals on everything from laptops to lamp stands.

Consumer research conducted by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) found the percentage of people intending to make a Black Friday purchase has risen – up from 37% in 2022 to 45% in 2023.

Younger people in particular are likely to make purchases.

The 1,026 respondents to the CCPC survey conducted by IPSOS/B&A, indicated that electronics were highest on the list for purchases, followed by clothing and jewellery, white goods, homeware and cosmetics.

Consumers understand that in recent months there has been an upsurge in scammers trying to access bank account details to commit fraud and accordingly people have been warned to be wary of online offers, and to be sure websites are genuine.

Head of Financial Crime with Banking and Payments Federation Ireland Niamh Davenport said that “everyone is a target now”.

“Especially with the increasing complexity of scams … we can be particularly vulnerable during the festive season when we are all busy and distracted.”

She said fraudsters are more convincing than ever.

“In particular be cautious of adverts online and on social media platforms, even if they are paid or sponsored ads using familiar brand names.

“These ‘too good to be true deals’ often lead people to fake websites where personal and financial information is collected.”

She recommends that consumers go to official brand websites to find deals and to also to check out the fraudsmart.ie website for fighting fraud on Black Friday.

With all the talk of online fraud and scams, there is always the option of going into town and grabbing a deal the old fashioned way.

Retailers would be very keen to see customers come through the door this year.

“Our message is there are families behind every family-run business in every high street across the country and you can’t beat the one-to-one deal in the shops coming up to Christmas,” said Co Meath Chamber of Commerce CEO Paula McCaul.

“A lot of retailers do have online sales, especially since Covid-19, but across the counter is where you get the best deal and you can always ask for a discount.

“The human interaction and spirit is there too when you come into the shops. Some retailers offer a sweet or a mince pie to say thanks and that adds to the spirit as does a wink and a nod and a ‘Happy Christmas’ wish. You just can’t get that online,” she said.

CCPC monitoring sale prices

A significant concern for consumers is whether sales prices being offered are actual discounts or if they are reductions on prices that were recently inflated.

Around 60% of consumers do not trust that pre-sale prices or discounts displayed are accurate according to the CCPC, and it is an area the commission is closely monitoring this year.

By law, when a business makes price reduction announcements, they must display the lowest price a product was on sale for in the previous 30 days and base the discount on this price alone.

Most announcements such as “sales”, “special offers” or “Black Friday offers” that indicate price reductions fall within the scope of the rules. CCPC member Kevin O’Brien said the commission “will take action” if the law is not being followed.

“In our recent Black Friday research three out of five sales shoppers say they’re motivated by discounts. This is why it’s so important that retailers are honest and transparent about reductions. Retailers can’t discount a product from a price it was never on sale for, or hike the price up for a couple of days so they can advertise a discount based on that artificially high price.

“The CCPC is currently actively monitoring online and in-store discounts to ensure consumers are not being misled. Where breaches of the law are found, the CCPC will take action,” he said.

The director of communications with the CCPC, Grainne Griffin, has advised people to look carefully at any advertised sale prices before committing to a purchase.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, she said the popularity of Black Friday has been growing for quite a while now, “but we’ve seen a significant jump this year in particular.

“There’s an 8% increase in the amount of consumers who are planning on shopping and the appeal is quite broad with a particular interest in the area of electronics, a lot of spend there and then clothing and beauty still very popular behind it.

“But really, with consumers of all ages, but particularly younger people, younger people are more likely to shop, but unfortunately less likely to shop around and do their research in advanced purchasing.” (7.46)

Ms Griffin said that consumers have to look quite closely at the prices and determine if it is actually on sale.

“We will be saying to consumers that you have to consider first of all, that all of your consumer rights fully apply in a sale.

“So, you do have your right to return and things like that afterwards. But before you even make the purchase, consider whether or not you really need it. You really want it. And can you afford it.

“And then so if you have gone out, you’ve decided to make a purchase. We’d be saying to consumers shop around, check the prices.”

She added that if you are shopping online, “be very, very careful who you’re shopping from, particularly if you’ve followed a link through from a social media site or from an advertisement. Consider going back out of that website and going to that brand’s website directly to ensure that it’s authentic and that you are getting the bargain you think you are.” (7.47)

She said that this year for the first time CCPC inspectors are going out into the sales armed with very strong legislation that sets out what traders are required to do to comply with sales pricing requirements.

“Traders are now no longer allowed to potentially skirt the edges of the law in relation to inflating prices before a sale or potentially being a bit misleading in how they advertise them.

“If the trader has a previous price up now, that must be the lowest price in the previous 30 days and also they’re not allowed to have other details like RRP, recommended retail price, things like that up in a way that gives the consumer the impression that’s actually the previous price.”

She said if consumers or businesses see those practices over the coming weeks, they should report them to the CCPC via the website or helpline.

Article Source – Consumer caution warning as Black Friday approaches – RTE

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