Competition & Markets Authority
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CMA calls on Wowcher to change its online sales practices

The CMA is calling on Wowcher to change its selling practices, which could be putting unfair pressure on customers to make quick purchases.

Wowcher is a large online site that offers deals on a variety of products and services, such as hotels, restaurants and experiences. 

In March this year, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation following concerns about Wowcher’s online selling practices – including whether its ‘urgency claims’ were misleading shoppers and could break consumer protection law. 

Wowcher’s website features extensive use of countdown clocks and marketing claims such as ‘Running out!’ or ‘In high demand! which create an impression of urgency and influence shoppers as they are making their purchasing decisions.  

The CMA has found evidence that these claims risk giving the misleading impression that products will increase in price or will not be available, when this is often not the case. Such claims, especially when used with countdown clocks, can put pressure on shoppers to buy quickly for fear of missing out, leading to rushed purchases. 

The CMA is also concerned about other practices used by Wowcher, including hidden charges and the use of a pre-ticked box to enrol consumers into VIP memberships on Wowcher’s site, which may lead to additional unintended purchases by consumers.  

The CMA yesterday wrote to Wowcher detailing its concerns and outlining the ways in which the company can formally address these. Wowcher now has the opportunity to respond and avoid court action by signing undertakings to change its online sales practices.

Sarah Cardell, Chief Executive of the CMA, yesterday said: 

Misleading urgency claims put pressure on shoppers to make quick decisions when spending their money.  With soaring living costs people need the time to shop around and find the right deals. 

We want to send an important message to Wowcher and other online businesses that time is running out on pressure selling tactics and we are calling on them to agree to change the way they do business to avoid the risk of court action.

For more information, visit the Wowcher case page.

Notes to Editor’s

  1. The CMA’s investigation concerns Wowcher Limited, Living Social Limited and other firms in the same corporate group (‘Wowcher’). 
  2. The main consumer protection legislation relevant to the CMA’s concerns about misleading urgency claims and other harmful online selling practices is the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). The CPRs aim to protect consumers from unfair commercial practices such as the misleading provision or omission of information as part of sales processes. 
  3. If Wowcher fails to give the CMA satisfactory undertakings to address its concerns the CMA can apply to the court for an order under section 217 of the Enterprise Act 2002 requiring the company to comply with its obligations under consumer protection law. 
  4. The investigation into Wowcher is part of the CMA’s programme of consumer enforcement work focused on ‘Online Choice Architecture’, which is aimed at tackling potentially harmful online selling practices, including pressure selling tactics such as urgency claims. The CMA’s investigation into Emma Sleep is also part of this programme. 
  5. The CMA has published an open letter and compliance advice to UK businesses that sell online. The letter provides examples of claims that the CMA considers breach consumer law, specifically misleading urgency and price reduction claims. 
  6. The CMA’s Online Rip-Off Tip-Off campaign, offers tips to help shoppers spot and avoid these practices, and enables consumers to report these tactics directly to the CMA. 
  7. As an enforcer under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002, the CMA cannot currently levy administrative fines for breaches of consumer law, although the government committed to giving the CMA and other regulators this power in the Autumn Statement on 17 November 2022 and the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill currently being considered by Parliament includes provisions to that effect. At present, the CMA can enforce consumer law through the courts and, where appropriate, seek additional measures to improve consumer choice, drive compliance with the law, or secure redress for consumers. 
  8. For media enquiries, contact the CMA press office on 020 3738 6460 or


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