Furniture firms in discounts deal

Five furniture and carpet retailers have changed their pricing practices following an investigation into the way discounts are advertised.

Carpetright chairman Lord Harris said his company had committed itself to open and transparent pricing
Carpetright chairman Lord Harris said his company had committed itself to open and transparent pricing

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said it has closed its investigation after SCS, Carpetright, Dreams, Furniture Village and Homestyle's trading brands Harveys and Bensons for Beds confirmed their commitment to using genuine prices.

The inquiry looked into the reference prices used by retailers to advertise a bargain to shoppers, such as "Was £800, Now Half Price £400".

The OFT said the retailers confirmed their commitment to using genuine reference prices and, without any admission of liability, made changes to their reference pricing practices.

The regulator did not give specific examples but said the higher price was unlikely to be genuine or fair if a product is only available to buy at a higher price in a limited number of stores, the discounted price is used for significantly longer than the higher price or if relatively low volumes of a product are sold at the higher price.

OFT director Gaucho Rasmussen said: "Retailers advertise bargains and discounts by referring to a previous or future higher price.

"It's a powerful marketing tool which, when used properly, provides a helpful and easy way to demonstrate to shoppers the value of discounts and savings."

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which succeeds the OFT next month, has pledged to continue to monitor pricing practices within the sector to check whether businesses are complying with their legal obligations.

CMA chief executive Alex Chisholm said: "Companies are advised to satisfy themselves that their practices are in line with the law because failure to do so could risk enforcement action."

Carpetright chairman Lord Harris said: "We are pleased the OFT has publicly welcomed Carpetright's commitment to open and transparent pricing."

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "It's good to see the OFT cracking down on the pricing tactics of furniture and carpet shops.

"Which? has exposed dodgy discounts and misleading multibuys in supermarkets, so we hope this announcement sets an example and leads to more retailers being fair to their customers by making special offers special."