Mattress-in-a-box firm Emma faces CMA inquiry into online sales tactics

<span>Photograph: Franziska Krug/Getty</span>
Photograph: Franziska Krug/Getty

The UK’s competition watchdog is investigating the mattress and bed brand Emma Sleep over concerns it may have misled consumers through use of pressure-selling tactics.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it would examine whether Emma and other companies in the group breached consumer protection law through measures designed to get shoppers to make quick purchases.

The CMA is looking into the brand, which is known for its mattress-in-a-box products, over its use of countdown clocks on its website and claims about the time limit for discounts, implying that a lower-price offer will end soon. Both of these can sometimes be used by sellers to put pressure on consumers.

The investigation is part of a wider consumer enforcement programme by the CMA called “online choice architecture”, which is looking into web sales practices.

The regulator has said the way businesses present information and choices to customers on their websites can be used to influence shoppers’ decisions.

The CMA has identified a string of potentially harmful practices that are often used in online retail and has found 71% of people who shop online have encountered misleading selling tactics.

Sarah Cardell, the interim chief executive of the CMA, said the investigation into Emma Sleep was the start of the regulator’s work into potentially misleading online claims. “The CMA is today reminding businesses they should not use urgency claims to mislead consumers and, if they do, they face the risk of CMA action,” she said.

Cardell added: “Nearly all of us shop online and it’s easier than ever to buy something at the click of a button. With the rising cost of living, genuine deals are worth shouting about – but companies using misleading ‘sale’ prices or fake countdown clocks can put unfair pressure on people to buy and could break consumer law.”

The CMA is calling on businesses to look at their sales practices to ensure they are in line with consumer protection law.

In 2019, the regulator clamped down on hotel booking sites including Expedia, and because of their pressure selling tactics, which it said misled consumers over prices and gave more prominence to hotels that paid the most commission.