The Czech trade inspection has found that many retailers are misleading customers during sale events and failing to provide them with proper information, as required by new laws that came into effect at the beginning of this year. Of the 1,142 inspections carried out in the first half of the year, inspectors found violations of consumer protection laws in 40% of cases.
The new rules for advertising sales were introduced in response to marketing practices by retailers that created false impressions of discounts. For example, some retailers would temporarily increase prices, then calculate a discount from the inflated price. In some cases, the final cost of the product after the deal was applied was even higher than the original price. Since introducing the new rules, the trade inspection has received more consumer complaints about false information regarding sales.
Retailers must inform customers of the lowest price at which the product was sold 30 days before the sale. However, this rule does not apply to perishable goods or products that quickly expire. For example, cut flowers, food with a specific expiration date, and bread are exempt from this rule. However, the law applies to durable goods, such as consumer electronics and clothing, and even some perishable goods with a minimum durability period.
Many of the proceedings initiated based on inspections are still ongoing, and the trade inspection has not named specific retailers or chains that have violated the law. The maximum penalty for violating consumer protection laws is five million Czech korun.
According to Jan Štěpánek, the director of the trade inspection, inspections mainly found incorrect calculations of discounts. Inspectors issued 39 fines totaling CZK 563,500 for this reason. In addition, inspectors found cases where the advertised discount and product prices did not include information about the retailer’s lowest price and sold the product 30 days before the sale.
With high inflation and a decline in real income, people in the Czech Republic are buying more discounted products than ever before. However, some customers still question the high price advertised as a discount. For example, one of the largest retail chains was found to be selling lower-value olive oil at 50% off for CZK 150, which suggests that the chain was selling it for CZK 300 before the sale.
As consumers become more aware of their rights, retailers must follow laws and regulations to avoid penalties and maintain consumer trust. The trade inspection will monitor retailers to ensure they comply with the new advertising sales rules and provide consumers with accurate information.