36 Bedford Row barrister acts on OFT’s Groupon investigation

36 Bedford Row barrister David Ball advised the OFT on its investigation into discount voucher company Groupon.

The regulator today gave Groupon, which is the trading name for MyCityDeal, three months to improve the way it operates after finding widespread consumer protection rule breaches.

Ball, who is listed as the preferred counsel for the Equality and Human Rights Commission and who has previously worked at Liberty, was instructed by the OFT’s in-house legal team.

They expressed specific concerns over “pricing, advertising, refunds, unfair terms, and the diligence of its interactions with merchants”.

The OFT has ordered Groupon, which instructed Matthew Arnold & Baldwin partner Mark Weston, to inform it of any complaints in these key areas and will monitor them closely. Enforcement orders could follow any further breach.

The OFT investigation was launched in July last year following customer complaints.

Groupon offers promotional deals to subscribers for a range of services such as restaurant meals and beauty treatments.

In December, the Advertising Standards Authority was prompted to make the referral after Groupon was found to have broken UK advertising regulations multiple times in less than a year. Groupon management accepted that the company’s rapid growth had outpaced its procedures and processes and it had co-operated fully with the investigation and signed agreements.

Groupon’s lawyers have agreed on a number of undertakings, including accurate, honest and transparent advertising, clear limitations on deals, fair terms an conditions, substantiated claims and applying refunds and cancellation rights online.