The Competition Markets Authority (CMA) is investigating whether online mattress and bed seller Emma Sleep has breached consumer law by making misleading claims about urgency, including the use of countdown timers for discounted deals. This investigation may be the start of a wider crackdown by the CMA on potentially harmful online selling practices.
What's the issue with urgency claims?
The CMA is investigating whether companies in the Emma Sleep group misled customers by using:
- countdown timers on discounted deals, implying that the deal would end if the consumer did not act urgently; and
- other time limits to imply discounted prices would end soon.
However, as the CMA recognises in its press release, Emma Sleep would only be likely to have breached consumer law if these claims of urgency were misleading i.e. in reality, the deals were not due to end as quickly as implied by the countdown timer or other surrounding information.
The CMA is concerned that if consumers are unfairly pressured into acting quickly, they won't take the time to compare offerings from different providers. That in turn may mean that consumers end up with a worse deal and that competition between retailers is less intense, which is also bad for consumers as it usually means higher prices.