Consumer Affairs opens new files for “false sales” and launches a campaign to detect possible fraud in summer offers

May 22, 2024 | Current affairs, Featured, Interview, Revista Lloseta, Thursday Daily Bulletin, Tradition

The Ministry of Social Rights, Consumer Affairs and Agenda 2030, headed by Pablo Bustinduy, has opened two new disciplinary proceedings against two large e-commerce operators for allegedly misleading sales during the last “Black Friday”.

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A campaign to detect possible fraud in summer offers

These new proceedings join those that the same ministry opened a fortnight ago against two other large online shopping companies for this same practice during the so-called “Black Friday”, a time of significant sales in many shops and department stores to encourage purchases by consumers during the last weekend of November.

Deceptive markdowns are understood as the fact that these operators are said to have raised the price of several products before Black Friday and then reduced them to their original price. In order to show what this practice consists of, a real case included in one of the new cases is given as an example, in this case, a company that sells sports clothing online:

The investigation found that, between 18 and 19 November, a pair of sports shoes was offered for €29.99. On 20 November, the price was raised to €29.99.

On 20 November, the price of the shoes was increased to €48.95.

On 24 November (coinciding with Black Friday), the price of the shoes was lowered again to €29,99.

In this way, consumers are exposed to the false belief that they can buy a product with a discount of €18.96, which does not correspond to reality, as the price was increased in the previous days.

The Ministry of Social Rights, Consumer Affairs and Agenda 2030 points out that these practices would be an infringement of Article 20 of the Law on the Regulation of Retail Trade. This regulation indicates that when an article is offered, the previous price must be shown and that this price must be the lowest price that had been applied to that article in the thirty preceding days. In this way, according to the law, the consumer will be able to make a correct comparison. Based on this regulation and also on Article 47 of the General Law for the Defence of Consumers and Users, “false discounts” can be considered unfair practices and can be classified as serious offences with fines of up to 100,000€, an amount that can be exceeded up to four to six times the illicit benefit obtained.

The Directorate General for Consumer Affairs has gathered information on this type of practice during a previous investigation that it launched because it considered that there were indications that these operators were carrying out these practices in their online sales. Under this premise, more than 1,000 products were monitored on a daily basis in preparation for Black Friday. This monitoring was carried out using the European Commission’s “Price Reduction Tool” and yielded the following results: more than 20% of the products analysed were found to be non-compliant and 60% of the companies investigated were found to have committed this fraudulent practice. In fact, the Directorate General for Consumer Affairs states that the investigation is still open to other companies, which could also be subject to disciplinary proceedings, thus extending the four currently open.

Summer sales
On the other hand, the Ministry of Social Rights, Consumption and Agenda 2030 announced that it will reinforce the monitoring of more products in view of the summer sales, which, as usual, will start in mid-June. The aim, says the ministry, is to protect the rights of consumers and to ensure that companies do not carry out these “false sales”. If so, they warn, penalties will be imposed on operators who carry out this practice, always related to online purchases over the Internet.

Likewise, the Directorate General for Consumer Affairs reminds that the opening of the new sanctioning proceedings does not prejudge the final result of the investigation, and informs that a maximum period of 9 months is now open for the instruction of the same and for their resolution by the competent bodies of the Ministry of Social Rights, Consumer Affairs and Agenda 2030.