Amazon, Argos, Currys and John Lewis have been exaggerating the savings of some of their electrical deals, research from Which? has found.
Amazon sold the Canon EOS 100D DSLR Camera with lens at an 'offer' price of £399, claiming that was £220.99 cheaper than the manufacturer's RRP. However, Which's research discovered that the 'typical selling price' reported by Canon - a figure sometimes cited instead of an RRP - was £449, meaning the Amazon deal represented a saving of just £50 in reality.
The consumer group also found the same camera on sale at another retailer for £449, which was the regular standard sales price - not a special offer.
In another example found by Which?, Amazon sold the Philips GC4851/32 Azur Steam Iron at an offer price of £66.99 while claiming the manufacturer's RRP was £70. While Amazon promoted the deal as offering customers a £3.99 saving, Philips said the RRP was actually £65 and so Amazon had upped the price rather than cutting it.
Argos and John Lewis were both found to have steadily reduced offer prices over time but only compared the revised prices with the highest price an item had previously been sold for.
Argos, for example, sold the Nikon D3300 24MP DSLR camera with lens at offer prices of £429.99, £414.99, £414 and £404.99 but always used the 'was' price of £599.99 as a comparison each time.
Customers were informed they were saving almost £200 on the camera at every new offer price "even when it was only £9 cheaper than the previous month," said Which?. It added that Nikon's price for the camera was £489.99, so £110 less than the 'was' price Argos claimed.
As for John Lewis, it sold its own-brand 55JL9000 LED HD Smart TV at offer prices of £1,599, £1,399 and £1,299 against a 'was' price of £1,699.
"At one point John Lewis was claiming that you were saving £400, but compared with the previous week you were saving only £100," said a Which? spokesman.
Consumer regulations state that retailers should compare offer prices with the price that they last sold it at but they are able to get around this rule by displaying information about when the item was last sold at the higher price.
While Argos and John Lewis did display such information, Which? found it wasn't always displayed clearly to customers.
In a statement to Which?, John Lewis said: "'It is never our intention to mislead our customers. We have very robust checking procedures in place for our offers."
It added: "We have reviewed our processes and when we display information about the dates a product is at the higher price it will be in a more prominent position."
Consumers are very much influenced by special offers, a survey also conducted by Which? revealed. Some 60% have reconsidered the items they planned to purchase if they saw an offer on a similar product. Some 30% had bought something they didn't intend to because of a discount and 40% delay purchases to wait for price promotions.