A national sofa retailer “purposely misled” Aberdeen customers by hiking up prices just days before a Black Friday sale, a court has heard.
SCS at the Kittybrewster Retail Park has now been fined £6,000 at Aberdeen Sheriff Court after an investigation by trading standards officers.
The Aberdeen City Council team have been monitoring prices in store for months and spotted a poster stating that everything had been reduced in the company’s November 2017 Black Friday sale.
However, three days prior to the sale the company actually increased the price of three sofas, one by as much as £800.
SCS’s parent company, A Share and Sons Ltd, admitted the charge under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 of engaging in an unfair commercial practice which was misleading to consumers and related to the display of misleading posters throughout the store.
The company had sought to rely on voucher books offering £25 off a sofa to justify its claim.
The court heard yesterday the trading standards team in Aberdeen had worked with chief officers of Trading Standards Scotland to check the compliance by retailers with the law on price promotions and newly-introduced pricing promotions guidance. Officers were able to build up a pricing history, allowing them to determine whether savings were genuine.
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During sentencing, Sheriff Ian Wallace said: “I do not view this as an oversight – it was a planned act by the company purposefully misleading its customers for financial gain.”
The offence took place on Wednesday November 22 2017, and related to the Lazy Boy Marvin three-seater sofa which had been increased in price by £800, the Lazy Boy Tamla three-seater sofa, which had been increased by £270, and the Endurance Baxter two-seater console manual recliner sofa, increased by £700.
Graeme Paton, trading standards manager at Aberdeen City Council, said: “I am very concerned this retailer appeared to have been ignoring the law relating to unfair trading in this manner by engaging in misleading sale practices. In one instance the company had increased the price of a sofa by £800 three days prior to a Black Friday promotion offering a £25 discount.
“Such practices are unfair, not only by misleading consumers in Aberdeen and the north-east but also by placing the many local and national retailers who trade fairly at an unfair disadvantage.”
A SCS spokeswoman said: “It was never our intention to mislead our customers and as such we acknowledged that more consideration should have gone into the promotions available at the time.
“We are committed to ensuring that our offers are fair and transparent for our customers – all of our offers and promotion end dates, including the end dates for the three sofas in question, are published on our website, in-store and via our advertising.
“Unfortunately, in one instance, which was flagged to us by Aberdeen Trading Standards in 2017, our promotion strategy for three sofas around Black Friday was deemed to have been misleading for customers.
“We will ensure we are much clearer with future promotions.”