ASA bans misleading Groupon ads

06/01/2011

Discount website Groupon’s UK has been forced to change three of its ads, after they were found to be misleading about the money consumers would actually save through the deal. This week, the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency upheld complaints that three ads by the company failed to make terms and conditions of its deals clear.

One e-mail ad claiming a saving of 60% on a meal for two at a South American restaurant was found to be misleading because one person had to pay for a full price meal in order for the discount to be valid. Another complaint about a sales promotion for a 60% discount on a “Segway Safari” experience on the Groupon website was upheld because the ad did not make it clear the deal was not available at weekends unless an extra £10 was paid.

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A separate sales promotion on the Groupon website for a £83.50 meal for two for the price of £29 was also upheld on grounds of exaggeration because a complainant challenged that if two people were to pick the most expensive items on the menu the total sum would not amount to £83.50.

The ASA explained in one particular case:

"Groupon said the complaint arose as a result of a drafting error by the editing team. They explained that, although they had a number of processes in place to prevent such errors occurring, it was not picked up…
Due to the exponential growth of their company, they had hired hundreds of new employees over the past months and the offer in question had been written up by a new starter. In that context, occasional errors were going to happen in spite of close management and control processes."

Groupon told the ASA that it had no commercial interest in misleading its customers and ”In presenting in excess of 50 deals per day, there was a likelihood of some degree of human error.

However, they sought to address that through extensive staff training and by incorporating quality control safeguards.”

Last month Groupon snubbed a reputed $6bn (£3.8bn) acquisition by Google and has since confirmed its plan to raise $950m (£610.1m) in funding.

Groupon works by sending its members details of discounts from merchants, which are activated when enough members agree to purchase.

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