European Consumer Centre

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Black Friday: how to avoid sale traps

(November 24, 2022) At the time of inflation, rising energy prices and certain shortages, Black Friday is of particular interest to shoppers. But beware, slogans such as “best deals” etc. can lure you to fake discounts or even fraudulent e-shops. The well-known “only three items left” trick is designed to put pressure on customers. The European Consumer Centre by the Czech Trade Inspection Authority advises on what to resist when chasing a lower price.

“We all want to save money, but with our five tips, people can shop safer and be better prepared on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is especially true if it’s the first time shopping with a retailer. Then you need to check the seller well,” says Ondřej Tichota from the European Consumer Centre at the CTIA, which helps consumers resolve disputes with businesses from other EU countries, Norway, Iceland and the UK. Detailed instructions on how to check out an unknown e-shop can be found on the ECC website

1. Check whether the e-shop is safe

Before you start shopping online, take a good look at the website:

  • Are the terms and conditions complete? Do they include the trader’s contact details and information about your right to withdraw from the contract and claim for faulty goods?
  • Is there a reliable postal address? Don’t hesitate to check the address using online mapping services – even a street photo will indicate whether it’s a business headquarters or a long-vacant house in a suburb.
  • If there’s a phone number listed, see if anyone answers.
  • Browse review sites to see if other users have had problems with the store, or, conversely, a good experience.

    2. Check if it is really a discount

During promotional periods, both the reduced price and the non-discounted price must be displayed. For European stores, the “pre-promotion” price shown must be the lowest price charged in the last 30 days. It is therefore advisable to monitor the prices of selected products over a longer period of time. If the un-discounted price is not the lowest in the last month, it may be an unfair commercial practice.

3. Resist the pressure

“20 other people are checking out this product” or “only three items left”: Many websites, mobile apps, social networks and even search engines use these pressure phrases. Some e-shops also try to influence our buying behaviour by using countdowns or shaming buttons like “No, I’m stupid and don’t want to take advantage of the 20% discount”. “It may seem ridiculous, but similar sentences can appear,” says Tichota.

4. Make sure you choose a secure payment method

  • If you’re paying online, make sure you have a secure internet connection.
  • Make sure the website address includes “https” and a closed padlock symbol.
  • Do not store your bank details on your mobile phone, computer or any shopping platform
  • Set a maximum amount for one-time credit card payments
  • If you’re shopping somewhere for the first time, be wary of bank transfer payments – it’s hard to get the sent money back if something goes wrong.

5. Use the legal guarantee

Any new or used goods (furniture, car, computer, household appliances, etc.) bought from a retailer based in the European Union are covered by a two-year legal guarantee. In this case, you can ask the seller to repair or replace the product or, if these two solutions are not possible, to compensate you for the damage.