Groupola dealt a blow by Office of Fair Trading

10 March 2011

Bitterwallet - Groupola logoYou 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?

Eight.

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."

TOPICS:   Mobile

13 comments

  • klingelton
    wonder if those marketing types at groupola have been sacked yet...
  • Paul C.
    Looking at their Facebook 'fan' page, it would appear as if they've pretty much given up and will likely wind-up and launch under a new guise. Be wary, folks.
  • Bazinga
    They sold fans too? Damn, missed that offer.
  • Blamplanet
    “When the issue first arose, nearly 9 months ago, we immediately carried out our own internal investigation as to the cause of the problems" Of course you didn't know about this promotion before it went live. How can the chairman of an international brand employing thousands of people across all the continents of earth be expected to keep track of everything ? Keeping up your reputation for honesty, integrity going right to the end eh ?
  • Nick T.
    Oh, shame on you and your cynical hackery. Their MD's been on Secret Millionaire and everything! I doubt if avid readers could prise a half-finished Greggs out of Bitterwallet.
  • Mark P.
    (no not that one..... this guy gives me a bad name!) So - after blatant lies the square root of FA happens to them? Another toothless organisation.
  • Caxon
    This is less a slap on the wrist than a sly hand-job. The OFT might as well have patted them on the back, they took no punitive action other than asking them to say sorry and promise they will be good in future.
  • tree h.
    dishonest wouldn't touch them with a barge pole
  • FlavourZ
    This story really doesn't surprise me, you just gotta look into Mark Peersons history to see the borderline spam tactics used to promote his online businesses ie my voucher codes of which then grew into an empire.
  • charitynjw
    Noted the BW cotribution in exposing this debacle while, & (imho), more importantly, ripping the absolute p**s out of them. Where would we be without you?
  • charitynjw
    ooooooooooooops - contribution
  • Cheesey
    Groupola really are a bunch of skanks. Skanky deals by skanky people for skanky people. Yuk!
  • Sal
    Mark Pearson the owner of groupola and myvouchercodes.co.uk built his empire using only black hats SEO , he still has a few guys buying links for him in Pakistan. He has no respect of the rules and his employers. He is not a friend of the IAB, the worst thing is that his site is an exclusive partner with Google display network. Why? Please report his bad practice to the ASA remit !

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