Discount vouchers – too good to be true?

by evolvedlegal on May 8, 2012

  • SumoMe

More and more customers are beginning to complain about breach of contract after purchasing deals on voucher site Groupon, after experiencing a lack of communication from deal issuers and a bad quality service (or in some instances, the paid for service never happening).

A Guardian article outlines a case study of one man who purchased a Groupon deal for a full service for his gas boiler. The company was called Homecall+, and its Groupon voucher stated that bookings should be made using the online system, which could take up to 10 days. The man in question entered his credit card details, purchasing the voucher for £39. This money was deducted from his account the very next day. After over a month of waiting for a response, and trying to contact the company in order to speak to someone, this particular individual still did not have a booking for his boiler service. What’s worse is that despite contacting Groupon to report this, all they did was reiterate the contact details for Homecall+ that the customer already had and was using. 2 months after the initial purchase of the voucher, and the individual has yet to sort out when his boiler will be serviced. It is worth noting that Homecall+ have received many complaints by Groupon customers, not just in securing bookings, but in their negligent provision of services. One man received their service, and yet found that after the contractor had left, his boiler begun leaking gas.

Another case study sees an individual purchase teaching sessions for herself and her family in Milton Keynes, with a company called SNO!zone, at a cost of £180. After purchasing the vouchers in October, she attempted to book evening/weekend sessions (these had to be booked by the 1st of December). Even in early October, the company stated they could no longer take bookings for evenings and weekends, due to what they called ‘unprecedented demand’. This meant that this woman would have to take time off work and take her kids out of school, in order to redeem the voucher, which at the time of purchase made her believe she could redeem it on the weekend or on evenings. After attempting to contact them for over a month to complain, she is yet to receive a response, from both Groupon and SNO!zone.

These case studies are not isolated incidents, and what they do demonstrate is a lack of communication not only the part of the businesses whose services are being provided, but also a lack of communication from Groupon itself. It is remarkable that a company which is so big (having a share value of over £7 billion) can have such problems in its communication structure to enable this sort of thing to happen. This may result in a loss of credibility for both Groupon and the companies it promotes.

It is interesting to note that despite having a subscriber base of over 116 million, the company itself is yet to make a profit. Emails complaining of companies’ failure to provide services often go unanswered for weeks. Attempts to get through on the telephone line often take over 30 minutes. Perhaps this is due to the fact that companies who advertise through Groupon become inundated with customers after floating a deal, and so cannot cope with the demand. Groupon then becomes inundated with consumers who want to complain about those companies (who are often small business looking to promote themselves and expand their customer base). It then becomes difficult for them to deal with all the complaints.

All of us like a deal, and the internet is a great place to find great offers, but the lesson in this is also surely that what appears to be very cheap is often so for a a good reason, that just because the next big thing on the internet seems great and everyone you know is talking about it, this doesn’t mean it is completely safe and also that if you encounter a problem when dealing online for a relatively small amount of money, once you have parted with your money, threatening litigation or involving solicitors in these circumstances is rarely if ever going to be cost effective. It is also of course indicates that going to the cheapest supplier of anything, particularly if it is something important, is rarely a great idea.  the same sorts of issues have beleaguered many service sectors, including, ironically the legal sector in such areas as conveyancing.




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