OFT demands hit dozens of Groupon's small business clients

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The Independent Online

Dozens of entrepreneurs who use Groupon to drum up business have seen trade disrupted ahead of an Office of Fair Trading deadline for the online deals giant to clean up its act.

In March, an OFT investigation found that there were "widespread examples" of consumer protection breaches and gave Groupon three months to implement six undertakings that would ensure that claims made on the website were fair and accurate. US-based Groupon has since expanded its compliance team and keeps a weekly log of customer complaints at the UK arm.

However, as the OFT deadline loomed, small businesses were left seething as their offers were delayed while Groupon ensured that the deals met with the more stringent guidelines. Businesses fumed that, having stocked up ahead of an expected surge in demand, delays could cost them thousands of pounds.

Hephalump.com, saw a deal on personalised bottle labels ahead of Father's Day, next Sunday, delayed from last Wednesday until the weekend. However, managing director Mike Bennett claimed that Groupon later refused to put up the offer at all after admitting his concerns when contacted by the press.

He said: "If I've signed a contract then I expect it to be honoured. The treatment I have received has been pretty shoddy but I believe that changes necessary to satisfy the OFT have caused the technical problems."

Groupon said: "As a young industry we are constantly evolving our systems and processes in the interests of customer and partner confidence; if, to protect them, a small amount of deals are delayed in going live on the site to ensure compliance with current regulations so be it."