EXPLAINING HOW GEARBEST SELLERS ENCOURAGE PURCHACES WITH "FLASH SALES"
Written by Ed Wiles, Scootered Founder
There are laws in the UK/EU that aim to make retail a level playing field, and you hope competitors will run their businesses according to them. These rules, such as the banning of deliberate loss-making, help ensure that newer retailers, like Scootered Ltd, can compete with larger retailers and online marketplaces like Gearbest. However, many of these laws are poorly policed and rely on the businesses playing fairly. Unfortunately, despite my warning Gearbest that their sellers were using illegal sales techniques many months ago, the practice continues (as of November 2019). I felt it would make a worthwhile blog post to explain this unlawful sales technique.
What Is Gearbest?
Gearbest is a Chinese online marketplace - so could be described as a Chinese version of Amazon. However, perhaps even more so than Amazon, they tend not to differentiate between themselves (Gearbest) and their sellers; indeed, it is Gearbest that provides the uniform terms and conditions to the customer. But it is important to remember you are buying from a third-party, not from Gearbest. For a more general discussion on whether you should buy your e-scooter from a foreign retailer, please see this post.
The Dodgy Sales Practice
When it comes to "promotional sales", the law is fairly simple - and inherently obvious. A company cannot claim an item is on sale if the item is not usually sold at the stated reference price. Unfortunately, sellers on Gearbest routinely disregard this and, to make it worse, they list their sales as "flash sales" with finite end dates, but as soon as one so-called flash sale ends, another one starts. All the time, the RRP (recommended retail price) is used as the reference (usual) price, but I have never seen one of these sellers selling the M365 at the RRP. You might question why this matters. It matters because the laws are there to make sure retailers are honest. More specifically, sales are tempting and a sale with a stated end-date encourages the consumer to buy for fear of missing out on the sale price. Below are three screenshots taken from one such seller (XBY) to show this deceit in practice with an explanation below. This is just one seller. I have come across four sellers (there are probably many more) employing the same tactics and informed Gearbest about three of them.
"Flash sale" advertised as ending 30/09/2019
New “flash sale” starts 30/09/2019 and advertised as ending 30/10/2019
New “flash sale” starts 30/10/2019 and advertised as ending 30/11/2019
As you can see from the three consecutive month-long "flash sales" above, as soon as one ended, another one began. In this case, the seller was lowering the price each time, which must have been somewhat surprising to any customers who bought their M365 during either of the first two flash sales - believing that they were indeed flash sales - and then spotted the next flash sale. It is probable that as soon as the current flash sale ended, another one would begin but Gearbest says it has finally taken action against this seller (after initially denying the company was doing anything wrong). The problem is that Gearbest is not policing this themselves: it would not be difficult (technically speaking) for them to make it impossible for sellers to create continuous flash sales. Their current modus operendi - when I point out this illegal sales practice - is to ask the store and then come back to me stating that what the store's denial is proof enough and then, after I show how the store is lying on multiple counts, to ask the store to remove the product. It is only if the store refuses to remove the product that they then punish/ban the seller - however, I supect it is not hard to start up again as a different seller.
I would not expect most buyers to care too much about this - as the price (and warranty) are likely the most important considerations when purchasing an e-scooter, and not whether the seller's sale is a true sale. However, for those of you who would prefer not to support a company that uses deceitful sales tactics, then I would of course suggest buying from a retailer that strives to adhere to the laws, such as Scootered. We sell the Xiaomi M365 and the Ninebot-Segway ES2 at a discounted price with a UK based 2-year warranty.