You may remember that the daily deal offering website Groupon was to be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the UK consumer protection body,  for breaking advertising regulations.

That warning and the accompanying investigation has not gone unheeded and today the company has apologised “To the Groupon customers who have experienced the negative side of our growth…”

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK referred Groupon to the OFT in December 2011 for repeated breaches of the Advertising Code. The ASA showed particular concern about the following:

  • Failure to conduct promotions fairly, such as making clear significant terms and conditions
  • Failure to provide evidence that offers were available
  • Exaggeration of savings claims

In an announcement today, the ASA is pleased that some changes are being made. Groupon is cleaning up its act and now says it will:

  • Make sure that reference prices (prices against which a sale price is compared) including savings, are accurate, honest and transparent
  • Carry out accurate, honest and realistic assessment of a merchant’s ability to provide goods or services in the quantity or time frame suggested
  • Products will be displayed clearly, prominently and on the same screen or before purchase with all the limitations which apply to any deal.
  • Reasonable steps will be taken to ensure that health or beauty product claims are supported by adequate substantiation
  • Terms and conditions will be fair
  • Groupon will apply refund policies and cancellation rights in accordance with the Distance Selling Regulations

That’s quite a list of important issues, but one that should make both buyers and sellers more comfortable as well as defending their consumer rights.

Groupon is not totally in the clear yet though, the OFT will be monitoring the company for the next three months to make sure this all happens. The ASA says that it will continue to refer Groupon complaints to the OFT too if they relate to matters subject to the undertakings.

You can keep an eye on them too as Groupon states on its site, “Our commitment is this: we are going to get this right. We won’t stop until we are known for having the best customer service in the UK. And we appreciate your help in getting there. If you see ways that we can improve, or if you feel we aren’t living up to our end of the bargain, please let us know.

A hard lesson maybe, but one that should ensure that Groupon can continue to provide interesting deals to people looking for a bargain.