Six high street furniture stores faked prices
Six high street furniture and carpet retailers have been accused of misleading their customers by artificially raising prices and then lowering them to a "sale" price.
The stores, which the OFT has chosen not to reveal (though the BBC has named Carpetright and ScS), had been artificially inflating prices before reducing them in a bid to convince shoppers they were getting a bargain.
The OFT said it wanted to alert consumers ahead of the bank holiday weekend, when hundreds of thousands of people go shopping in order to snap up Bank Holiday bargains.
The OFT said it had uncovered "systematic" examples of "inflated reference pricing" within the furniture retail sector.
OFT director Gaucho Rasmussen said: "OFT research has found that reference pricing can mislead consumers into thinking the item they have bought is of higher value and quality, pressure them to buy there and then so they don't 'miss out' on the deal and also impair their judgment, as buying an item immediately means they do not get the chance to search the market for the real best deals.
"We have contacted a number of carpet and furniture retailers asking them to review their pricing practices and sign legally enforceable undertakings.
"This bank holiday sale season we would recommend that consumers ask sales staff when and for how long the reference price was used and also how many sales they achieved at this price. This will help them to determine whether they are getting a good deal."
The OFT has written to the six retailers, ordering them to stop the practice and has given them until the autumn to respond. It acknowledged that sales of products at the "sale" price totaled just 5% and some didn’t sell at all – meaning the number of consumers hoodwinked by the practice is low.
Earlier this week, supermarket giant Tesco was fined £300,000 for using a similar practice to boost sales of strawberries.