According to Citizens Advice, MILLIONS of shoppers have fallen victim to buying something they didn’t need or regret falling for.
Commonly used online tactics include auto-renewing subscriptions and ‘trickle pricing’ techniques.
According to the charity, these traps add hidden costs to shopping bills and cost millions of people almost £2.1 billion.
While legal, the tricks are taking shoppers off guard and often causing serious buyer regrets.
About 5.6 million people say they have had a negative impact on household finances.
Matthew Upton, acting executive director of policy and advocacy at Citizens Advice, said: “With tactics like these, some online retailers are making it harder for people to shop smart.
“As a result, consumers waste billions of dollars, at a time when many can least afford it.
“If we want to stop companies from taking advantage of consumers in this way, we need legislation that can really catch up with online retail.”
We explain five shopping pitfalls and how to avoid them.
1. Misinformation or hard to find
A company selects the information it presents about a product or service.
For example, this might mean labeling products as “best value” when the retailer also sells cheaper versions.
This can also include promoting something as a discount or a discounted item when it was never sold at original price.
2. Drip pricing
A website or app leads with the title price but at checkout the final price will be higher after applying the necessary conditions.
This makes it harder for consumers to compare prices between retailers.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently launched a review on banning trickle pricing.
3. Registration Trap
Most subscription companies are legit, from recipe boxes to wine clubs, regular razor deliveries to restaurant discounts.
They make starting a subscription easy and engaging by offering a free trial or a large upfront discount.
In the worst case, it’s so simple that you don’t even realize you’ve signed up — you’ve ticked the wrong box or missed the small print about repeat payments.
One in four of us signed up by accident, Citizens Advice said.
But getting out requires more effort, such as making a phone call or scrolling through the company’s website to find an email address.
It’s called the mud tactic, when companies make getting out of a contract like trudging through the mud.
Before signing up, make sure you read the small print to understand how to get rid of it.
4. Limited stock requirement
Some sites or apps may show something as “out of stock” or popular, such as: “100 people viewed this in the last 24 hours”.
Previous research by Citizens Advice shows that these scarcity tactics can lead consumers to spend more than intended.
About 28% reported that they felt more pressure to make a purchase if they saw these signs.
5. Countdown timer
Similar to the limited inventory claim, this pressure tactic involves having a countdown timer for when the sale ends.
These – often falsely – imply that a pullback is about to expire.
So don’t automatically assume just because it says you have minutes or hours left, you’ll lose if you don’t buy it there and then.
How to cut costs when shopping online?
If you are shopping online and know exactly what you need, make sure to write a list.
This will help prevent overspending on items that aren’t on your list.
Make sure to use price comparison tools like Google Shopping to find similar products from other retailers and compare prices.
And remember, if you spot a bargain, it’s only a bargain if you needed the item in the first place.
If you buy something just because it’s on sale, you don’t necessarily save money.
Here are five other ways to cut your online shopping costs:
Become a member
The majority of online businesses offer exclusive discounts to new customers.
If you have multiple email addresses, you can benefit from these offers over and over again.
Not only will you have access to members-only discounts, but you’ll also be able to get discounted rates on home delivery depending on the retailer.
Sign up for the newsletter
Let’s face it, no one likes an inbox full of junk.
But if you sign up for the newsletters of your favorite brands, you can often get the usual savings.
And if you’re fed up with countless emails, you can simply unsubscribe.
Don’t buy the first time
If you are a member or have an account with several retailers, you can save money by not buying the item you want at first glance.
For example, if you view the same product two or three times, the retailer may email you about it.
In the best case scenario, they’ll send you a discount code or exclusive offer.
Worst case scenario, you’re only prompted for items you didn’t choose to check out.
Search for discount codes
Searching for a retailer’s name and discount code on a search engine can often be the golden ticket to buying cheaper.
Not all code is guaranteed to work.
But you can get a direct link to the clearance or discount section on the retailer’s website.