The fast-fashion retailer, Boohoo, broke Advertising Standards Authority rules with “misleading” promotions.
The BBC’s investigative programme, Watchdog Live, recorded promotions on the company’s website that did not end after the countdown clock reached zero.
Time-limited sales put pressure on consumers to buy quickly. Keeping the clock running means the time limit – and the pressure – were false.
Boohoo said it was never its intention to mislead.
The company said customer demand drove it to extend certain offers.
Between August and November 2018, Watchdog Live recorded 14 sales advertised on Boohoo that had a countdown clock attached to them.
But after the countdown clocks on the sale reached zero, the clocks reset and the offers continued.
This included a Black Friday offer for 30% off absolutely everything, which urged customers: “Hurry – ends soon.”
In reality, the promotion was not ending any time soon – when the clock counted down to zero, it simply started again.
In these cases, Watchdog Live found that the clocks were misleading, as the promotions were not genuinely time-limited.
The ASA has previously ruled against companies found to be advertising misleading time-limited sales.
The ASA told Watchdog Live: “Boohoo is breaking rules around sales promotions that we have investigated and ruled against previously, which is why this has been passed straight to our compliance team. Our team will work with the advertiser to ensure they bring their ad into line.
“Compliance have various tools at their disposal to make sure advertisers adhere to our rulings and the precedent set in previous cases where we’ve upheld on the same issues. In this specific instance, the use of a countdown clock is problematic if it misleadingly implies the offer is time-limited when that is not the case.”
Presenter Nikki Fox said: “As someone who loves to shop online, it’s really disappointing to see Boohoo breaking the rules like this. I know myself how much the pressure countdown clocks add when shopping, making you feel you need to snap up a bargain quickly. It is good to see the ASA taking action to stop companies doing this in the future.”
A Boohoo spokesperson told the programme: “At Boohoo, customer satisfaction is our utmost priority. We are focused on bringing our customers the latest fashions at the best prices and running promotions is one of many ways that we invest in our customer proposition.
“During the period August 2018 to November 2018 Boohoo ran a number of time-limited promotions. On the small number of occasions researchers for BBC Watchdog Live have identified, customer demand drove us to extend these offers and we did so to avoid disappointment.
“It is never our intention to mislead customers and we take full note of the BBC Watchdog’s inquiry. We are looking into our processes to ensure that further diligence is exercised in relation to future promotions of this nature.”
The full report on Boohoo breaking advertising rules can be seen on Watchdog Live on Wednesday 5 December at 8pm on BBC One.