Groupon gets knuckles rapped by advertising body

Groupon has found itself in trouble with the UK’s Advertising Standards Association (ASA), after three of its ads were found to be “misleading.”

The advertising watchdog ruled that the three ads gave customers the wrong impression about how much they could save with the company’s deals.

One email ad claimed a saving of 60 percent on a meal for two at a South American restaurant. However the ASA pointed out that this was misleading because one person had to pay for a full price meal in order for the discount to be valid.

A second advert was also criticised after it promised a 60 percent discount on a Segway Safari experience. However, what it failed to mention was that the deal was only available at the weekend for an additional £10.  

It also told a few porkies with a sales promotion offering a meal with an original price tag of £83.50 for £29. However one foodie complained stating that if two people were to pick the most expensive items on the menu the total sum wouldn’t amount to £83.50.

Groupon told the ASA that it disagreed that this ad was misleading and said the offer was calculated on the basis of the restaurant’s most expensive menu items at the time the agreement was signed. That broke down per person as £6.25 for a starter, £22 for a main course, £10.50 for a cheeseboard and £3 for tea or coffee. It said those prices were available at the time the contract was signed but that there were some fluctuations in pricing due to seasonal variations. Groupon nevertheless pointed out that specials were regularly available priced in excess of £22.  It sent a copy of the contract with the restaurant and copies of e-mail exchanges with the restaurant manager in support.

Generally the company added that it Groupon  had no commercial interest in misleading its customers. This was because if an offer was poorly described on its website, it detrimentally affected their relationship with customers and business partners, undermining the investment they made in acquiring both. It said in presenting in excess of 50 deals per day, there was a likelihood of some degree of human error. However, it sought to address that through extensive staff training and by incorporating quality control safeguards.

The three ads have been banned in their current form.