The CMA has announced an investigation into Simba Sleep’s online sales practices. The concerns focus on Simba Sleep’s use of potentially misleading claims about the extent of price reductions on its mattresses and related products, as well as the use of urgency claims such as countdown timers, that may mislead consumers on the availability of special offers. 

This investigation follows the CMA's publication in March 2023 of an enforcement notice calling on UK businesses to stop using sales practices that could break the law. The letter provides practical examples of common online sales practices that may mislead consumers or apply undue pressure.

In announcing the investigation, Sarah Cardell (Chief Executive of the CMA) referenced the importance of shoppers being able to recognise a genuinely good deal, particularly with the cost of living hitting consumers’ pockets. She warned that other companies across the online economy should take the opportunity to look at their own practices to ensure the way they do business stays within the law.

This investigation forms part of the CMA’s ongoing programme of consumer enforcement work focused on Online Choice Architecture (or OCA), which is essentially the tools and techniques online retailers use to nudge consumers into making certain decisions. The CMA has noted that its earlier investigations into Emma Sleep and Wowcher are also part of this programme. By way of reminder:

  • The CMA launched its investigation into Emma Sleep in November 2022 on whether it has misled consumers by using countdown timers and claims about time limits to imply that a discounted price will end soon, when this may not in fact be the case. In July 2023 the CMA issued a consultation letter to Emma Sleep detailing the CMA’s specific concerns about the Emma Group’s online sales practices and has asked the Emma Group to take steps to address these.
  • The CMA launched its investigation into Wowcher in March 2023 on their extensive use of countdown clocks and marketing claims such as ‘Running out!’ or ‘In high demand!’, which create an impression of urgency and influence shoppers as they are making their purchasing decisions. As with the investigation into Emma Sleep, in November 2023 the CMA issued a consultation letter detailing their specific concerns and asking Wowcher to take steps to address them.

As the latest investigation has only just been launched we will need to wait and see what the new year brings for Simba Sleep. Possible outcomes include the CMA securing undertakings from Simba Sleep that address its concerns, taking court action or closing the case without further action. 

With the new investigation into Simba Sleep one might ask: what is it about mattress retailers? But perhaps it is a more general indication of how important a weapon OCA is becoming in the online arms race – as businesses see their competitors pushing the boundaries with OCA, perhaps they feel compelled to do the same just to keep up. However, it is clear from the CMA’s ongoing laser-focus on this issue that firms would be wise to review their own practices as a matter of (dare we say it) urgency, and perhaps have confidence in the fact that the CMA will take the necessary action to ensure a level playing field for retailers, and a more transparent market for consumers.