7 in 10 people have experienced potential online scams, disturbing new CMA study finds


In a survey of over 2,000 UK adults:

  • 7 out of 10 have been victims of deceptive online practices
  • 85% thought the companies using them were dishonest with their customers
  • And 83% were less likely to buy from them in the future

The CMA today launched a brand new campaign “The Online Rip-Off Tip-Off” to help shoppers spot and avoid deceptive online practices that could lead to their scam.

With nearly a third of all retail purchases now taking place online, after the pandemic fueled an increase in internet shopping, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has become increasingly more concerned about the impact of these “underhanded” sales tactics on consumers.

Research commissioned by the CMA shows that these practices, which are carefully designed to manipulate shoppers, can lead to wasted time and money, as well as anxiety and stress, and thus cause financial and emotional harm. important. It found that 71% of people who shop online had encountered these tactics and 61% described their experience as negative. This is exacerbated by the fact that they are often difficult to spot and people do not know how to avoid them.

The survey also found that among those who had experienced deceptive online practices, the top concern was hidden charges (85% of respondents), followed by subscription traps (83%), fake reviews (80 %) and pressure selling (50%). ).

To tackle this issue and further support its law enforcement work, CMA is today launching its “The Online Rip-Off Tip-Off” campaign, led by TV presenter and consumer champion Angellica Bell.

Andrea Coscelli, CMA’s Executive Director, explained:

As online shopping grows and expands, we are increasingly concerned about companies using deceptive sales tactics, such as high-pressure sales or hidden fees, to trick people into part with their money.

He added:

None of us would accept these tactics in the real world. But we may not realize how much they influence what we buy online. So we launched “The Online Rip-Off Tip-Off” to help empower shoppers.

We continue to crack down on practices that may violate the law, such as fake reviews. But to tackle this problem from all angles, it’s essential that buyers also have the tools they need. Only when we all know what these tricks are and how they are designed to manipulate and mislead are we better equipped to avoid them.

According to the UK-wide survey, many respondents said they had wasted money on a disappointing product or experience, spent money they could not afford, or wasted time trying to repair the damage done. 85% of respondents think companies using such practices are dishonest with their customers, with 83% less likely to buy from them in the future.

Angellica Bell, co-host of The Martin Lewis Money Show, explains why it’s so important to know what you might encounter when shopping online:

Sometimes we feel pressured when shopping online or often doubt that an offer is too good to be true. Through the CMA’s “Online Rip-off Tip-off” campaign, we want to help people know what signs to look out for and how best to report a sneaky sell move. Just because you’re online and not on the high street, you can always take a moment to think about the purchase before you pay. Don’t feel obligated to anything and be sure to shop around.

The campaign is also supported by Citizens Advice, where consumers can report misleading practice issues they have encountered online.

Matthew Upton, director of policy at Citizens Advice, said:

While many businesses play fair, too often we hear of online shoppers being tricked by fake reviews, time-pressed claims, or seriously disguised offers.

We hope “The Online Rip-off Tip-off” campaign will help shoppers spot and report underhanded sales tactics – like deals that seem too good to be true or pressure to buy now.

By doing this, we can help get unscrupulous merchants to book, and all online shopping is safer.

Paul Scully, UK Government Consumer Affairs Secretary, said:

I urge shoppers to heed the CMA’s campaign to stay savvy online and report issues to Citizens Advice.

This government is working to rebuild the pandemic more fairly by cracking down on deceptive tactics, subscription traps and fake reviews. It means we’re side by side with consumers and the vast majority of businesses doing the right thing.

Case study

Londoner Jo Robinson, 46, shares her experience:

When I was shopping for Christmas presents for my daughters, I spent time online researching the latest gadgets, clothes and event tickets, and spent over £800 on presents alone.

It’s frustrating to know that many of the deals I made weren’t the last chance to buy what I believed in at the time. And some of the items when they arrived did not match the description or live up to the reviews. It makes you suspicious while buying on the internet. Many offers are too good to be true and when they show up, it’s not the quality you expected, so you feel ripped off.

The goal of the Online Rip-off Tip-Off campaign is to educate consumers about these deceptive online practices and provide advice on how to avoid them. Find out more at www.gov.uk/ripoff-tipoff

If people in England and Wales want further advice or want to report a concern, they should contact Citizens Advice. Consumers in Scotland should contact Advice Direct Scotland and buyers in Northern Ireland should contact the Consumer Council.

Notes to Editors

  1. For more information or to request an interview, please contact [email protected] or call 07455 518530.

  2. Link to the Rip Off Road video: https://youtu.be/c6hcM6Jn90c

  3. ONS survey: how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to online spending

  4. A description of the 4 common deceptive online practices referenced in the press release are:

  • Subscription traps – tricking a customer into signing up and paying for an unwanted subscription that may be difficult to cancel

  • Hidden charges – unexpected mandatory charges, fees or taxes added when someone tries to make a purchase online

  • Pressure selling – a tactic used to give a false impression of the limited availability or popularity of a product or service

  • Fake reviews – reviews that do not reflect a real customer’s genuine opinion or experience of a product or service

About YouGov Research

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.

  • This survey was conducted using an online interview (administered between 10 and 11 January 2022) with YouGov Plc UK panel members (over 800,000 people who agreed to take part in the surveys).

  • The total sample size was 2087 adults. Figures have been weighted to reflect the profile of the UK’s adult population

  • YouGov plc strives to provide information that is representative


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