Friday, 16 March 2012

Groupon's abject "Sorry"

What should we conclude from the abject apology on Groupon's website today, after accusations that it misled customers with exaggerated offers of discounts?

In response to the hugely embarrassing charge from the Office of Fair Trading that there was widespread evidence of consumer protection laws having been breached, Groupon says:

"We’re sorry."

"We've failed."

"It pains us when we fall short."

"We messed up."

Groupon does squirm a bit, blaming "the negative side effects of our growth" and firms who advertise their discounts on the website and "are unfamiliar with how much capacity their business can actually handle."

Even so, the company has promised to vet its adverts so they don't mislead.

And it will make careful checks on firms who make the offers, to ensure that they can deliver the goods.

But the question hanging over this is whether a monster organisation like Groupon can work consistently in the consumer's interest.

If you are posting hundreds of new offers a day across 50 towns and cities and growing like topsy, can you be 100% confident that they are fair, accurate and reliable?

We will know the answer in a few months because the OFT is basically saying: "I've got my eye on you!"

On the OFT, Groupon comments: "Frankly, we’re grateful any time someone takes the time to give us feedback on how to better serve our customers."

Please remember, Groupon, this is not a gentle piece of feedback, it is a threat of court action and a fine.

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