Wowcher rapped after shoppers unwittingly charged for 'VIP' subscriptions – here's what's happened and how to get a refund
Wowcher has been rapped by the competition watchdog after shoppers were unwittingly signed up to its £4.99 a year VIP subscription – something MoneySavingExpert.com warned about last year. The deals site has also been told to stop putting 'unfair' pressure on shoppers to make purchases quickly.
For more info on the legal protections you have when shopping online, see our Consumer Rights guide.
Wowcher must change its online sales tactics – or it faces court action
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into Wowcher this March following concerns about its online sales practices, including whether some of its tactics were misleading shoppers and could therefore be breaking consumer law.
The CMA has now written to Wowcher detailing its concerns and told the retailer it must agree to change its sales tactics, or it could face court action. The CMA specifically has concerns over the use of:
- A pre-ticked box to sign shoppers up to Wowcher's VIP membership subscription at the checkout. The CMA said this could lead to additional unintended purchases by shoppers who didn't notice they'd been signed up automatically when placing orders online. An MSE investigation last July revealed that scores of shoppers had unwittingly been charged £4.99 for the deals site's annual VIP subscription service.
- Countdown clocks and 'Running Out' or 'High Demand' marketing claims. The CMA found evidence that these tactics could risk misleading shoppers into thinking products were about to increase in price or sell out, when this was often not the case, and therefore pressure them to make purchases quickly.
We've asked the CMA what changes it expects Wowcher to make and how long Wowcher has to address these concerns and we will update this story when we know more.
Unwittingly signed up for a Wowcher VIP subscription? Ask for a refund
If you've been unwittingly signed up to Wowcher's subscription service, you are entitled to a full refund under its terms and conditions if you don't want to continue your membership.
Felt you were pressured into buying by Wowcher? Here, it's less clear cut whether you can use these sales tactics to argue for a refund. However, under consumer rights law you have 14 days from the day after you received all goods or 14 days from the day after the order is made, for services and digital content, to request a refund.
Wowcher's separate returns policy also states that you can get a full refund within 14 days of receiving goods or vouchers, so long as the voucher is unused and the products are not bespoke. If the products are bespoke, Wowcher says a refund will only be offered if the item is faulty.
What does Wowcher say?
A spokesperson for Wowcher said: "The aim of our marketing claims is always to provide accurate and useful information to our customers when they are browsing our website. We look forward to continuing to engage with the CMA on this matter."