Consumer Ombudsman: Deceptive pricing in the furniture business

Monitoring by the Consumer Ombudsman reveals that furniture sellers are misleading consumers over prices. Furniture marketers create an impression of major discounts by quoting – alongside the sales price – comparison prices, discount percentages or other expressions referring to discounts. Monitoring proved that the discount advertisements were not always truthful.

The Consumer Ombudsman monitored the websites of several furniture companies from August 2016 to January 2017, to see how furniture marketing indicated product discounts by means of percentages, comparison prices or other similar expressions. The following companies’ websites were monitored: Kruunukaluste Oy, Metropoli Kaluste Oy, Stemma Oy, Finsoffat Oy, Isku-Yhtymä Oy, Vepsäläinen Oy and JYSK Oy.

Fabricated comparison prices and imaginary discount percentages

All companies monitored by the Consumer Ombudsman showed a varying degree of flaws in their marketing. The biggest offence was that the product was not necessarily ever sold at the given comparison price, and that the discount percentages were imaginary. When a comparison price was given, the discount was said to be valid only for a limited period until a specific date.

Such limited offers were sometimes chained together without a break. A product was said to be on a Christmas sale by using the expression SALE, although the product’s price was the same as it had been since August before the sale started. In addition to this, product prices were occasionally raised for a short period, followed by advertisements of a discount for a considerably long time.

By using comparison prices and discount percentages, marketing tries to create the impression among consumers that the discounts are considerable. Various temporal restrictions create an image of products on offer for a specific period, giving the impression that the product is available at a discounted price for a very limited period only.

Consumer Ombudsman expects furniture companies to get their act together

Healthy price competition and discounts benefit customers, but the presentation of untruthful information and misleading expressions is unequivocally wrong. Boosting furniture sales cannot be built on abusing the trust of consumers.

The monitored companies have been cautioned about the flaws in their marketing and about violating the Consumer Protection Act and the extensive case law rulings of the Market Court. The Consumer Ombudsman will continue to monitor the marketing of furniture companies. If the companies are found to repeat their illegal marketing practices, the Consumer Ombudsman may impose an injunction or bring the matter to the Market Court.

The Consumer Ombudsman has conducted similar monitoring of the websites of Maskun Kalustetalo Oy, and Sotka and Asko (Indoor Group Oy). Following the monitoring, Maskun Kalustetalo Oy was sentenced by the Market Court to pay a fine, while Indoor Group Ltd was issued with an injunction combined with a conditional fine.