Council’s mystery shoppers uncover numerous incidents of false advertising during Mother’s Day sale

06/05/2010 11:21

The Consumer Council of Fiji’s recent survey on Mother’s Day sale conducted by our mystery shoppers network revealed that many retailers were using various means of false advertising to lure consumers into their shops. Prominent amongst these were “bait advertising” and “inflated price” comparison.

The Council’s network of mystery shoppers- mostly volunteers posing as normal customers- found that products advertised in the colorful and glossy Mother’s Day sale catalogues at ridiculously cheap price was not in stock when customers went to purchase it. For example- a prominent Duty Free shop’s Mother’s Day catalogue had a host of 9 carat gold earrings sold from $39 a pair (a bargain most customers would not like to miss) but when our mystery shoppers went to the shop to buy it- they were told it is out of stock.

Instead the sale representative asked our mystery shoppers to look at other more expensive earrings. Our shoppers- through further investigation- discovered this particular shop uses the 9caret earrings in all its catalogues as a “bait” to lure customers in their shops.

Bait advertising is a technique used to lure consumers into a store by advertising catalogue sale prices of products, but the store fails to stock a reasonable number of products to meet the anticipated demand. The purpose of bait advertising is to switch consumers from buying the advertised merchandise, in order to sell something else, usually at a higher price on the basis more advantageous to the advertiser.

The Council would like to warn that bait advertising is an offence under the Fair Trading Decree 1992 and we would report on all retailers involved in this practice to the Department of Fair Trading and Consumer Affairs.

The mystery shoppers also found a lot of shops involved in inflated price comparisons. Here retailers falsely inflated the price of items, and then offered them for a lower “sale” price, which indicated to most consumers that they were getting a “deal” on merchandise since it was supposedly on sale. For example- retail chain shop in Fiji renowned for selling goods at cheap prices- had price tag on an Indian dress with $45 crossed off on thet op and $18 written at the bottom. This is to give shoppers an impression that the $45 dress is being sold at a sale price of $18 but in reality this particular dress is sold for $18 normally.

With the practice of false advertising rife among traders, the Council would like to warn consumers to be cautious and not to get in the commercialized hype and fancy advertising gimmicks for Mother’s Day sale. While everyone wants to give the best to their mother’s,consumers should also be wary of being mislead by devious advertising and not lose their hard-earned money for nothing. Consumers need to be prudent in their spending andavoid engaging in unnecessary purchases.

The Council would also like to urge consumers to be cautious when deciding on using thehire purchase method of buying goods to gift their mums. Traders are increasinglyenticing consumers with zero deposits; free gifts etc when buying on hire purchase.Consumers should only buy those goods that are needed. While buying on hire purchase,check that you can afford the repayments and do work out the total amount you will haveto repay.

The Council would also like to warn all traders and service providers that it has avery active mystery shoppers network in place. These mystery shoppers are alwayson field monitoring the trading practices and we will report all unfair practices tothe Department of Fair Trading and Consumer Affairs. The Council will also nothesitate to name and shame all repeat offenders.

Summary of advice to consumers during Mother’s Day shopping:

  • Budget and spend wisely;
  • Exercise your consumer right to seek information on your purchase;
  •  Examine products carefully before purchasing;
  • Scrutinize services carefully before using
  • Do comparison shopping on products, services offered and their prices;
  • Collect receipts for every purchase or service rendered;
  •  Be aware of your rights when you shop for a product or service.

Consumers are encouraged to seek information and advice on their rights andresponsibilities from the Consumer Council offices nearest to them.