Groupola dealt a blow by Office of Fair Trading
You remember Groupola? Of course you do!
You no doubt remember their £99 iPhone 4 promotion that gullible newspaper journalists swallowed hook, line and sinker?
And you'll remember how thousands of people kicked off because nobody could get their hands on one, despite Groupola's assurances they had hundreds to sell?
You might also remember how Bitterwallet exposed their members of staff posing as customers on Facebook, and how we proved that Groupola had paid people to astroturf its page with fake reviews?
And you may remember how, despite our best efforts, we couldn't find more than four people who had claimed to have bought Groupola's £99 iPhone 4?
There was a reason for all of this.
Despite insisting that they'd sold 200 of them during the promotion, it transpires Groupola didn't have anywhere near that many handsets to sell.
So exactly how many iPhone 4s did Groupola actually sell?
We'll leave that to sink in with you for a moment.
Today, The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has taken enforcement action against Markco Media, the company that operates Groupola, for using 'bait pricing' techniques to trick 15,000 consumers into registering with their site in the hope of purchasing the deal:
"People were not informed that there were only eight handsets available and so almost everybody attempting to buy an iPhone 4 at £99 was left disappointed, after incurring time and effort providing personal details to sign up to Groupola.
"During the promotion, a sale progress bar at one point indicated over half of the iPhone 4s were still available and above this was a caption stating '202 bought'. At the time, the company itself claimed that 'over 5 million' users attempted to visit the website during the sale."
The OFT also quote's Bitterwallet's investigation, noting they were concerned that "an employee represented himself as an ordinary consumer and made positive comments about the company." As a result, The OFT has made Markco Media's Director sign undertakings that prevent the company from:
• offering for sale products in circumstances where there is a disproportionately inadequate supply of those products when compared with the scale of advertising and marketing
• making statements (including comments on social networking and blogging websites) without clearly and prominently disclosing when the author is an employee or has another relevant relationship with the company
We've also received the following statement from Groupola chairman Mark Pearson:
"We would of course like to apologise to anyone who was disappointed with the promotion that we ran in July 2010. We worked closely with the Office of Fair Trading during their enquiries to ensure that nothing like this happens again.
"When the issue first arose, nearly 9 months ago, we immediately carried out our own internal investigation as to the cause of the problems and the members of the team responsible for the promotion are no longer with the company."