Advance Notice of Formal Complaint to the Office of Fair Trading about Anti-Competitive and Unfair Trading Practices by Kingsway Communications

IN MY ORIGINAL POST this morning I drew a comparison between the £13.48 preorder offer featured in David Keen’s post The Last Instrumental Worship Album…Ever! and Kingsway’s out now offer on their The Best Instrumental Worship Album…Ever! of £12.99 compared to their RRP of £16.99.

It has since been brought to my attention that the £13.48 pre-order offer originated from eden.co.uk, not Kingsway. I have therefore withdrawn my original post. If anyone knows what Kingsway’s pre-order offer was, please leave a comment or contact me directly.

The basic issue of undermining trade elsewhere and misleading customers by advertising products at RRPs that the publisher/producer never in fact charges remains the same, however, and so my intention to notify the Office of Fair Trading of this ongoing situation remains unchanged.

Formal notice, John: sort this folly out — today, please — or, as advised to you and others by email this morning, I shall be registering a formal complaint with the OFT. Over ten weeks have passed since I first raised concerns here; a full week has passed since July 21st, the date by which you indicated your intention to address the matter: more than sufficient time to straighten things out but with no evidence of any action taken.

Please note that this is neither a bluff nor a threat: more a case of weary resignation. I do not regard initiating formal proceedings against a Christian organisation as something to be undertaken lightly. I remain hopeful that Kingsway will acknowledge the error of their ways and take appropriate remedial action before such intervention becomes necessary.

Anyone who’d care to join me in finalising and submitting a formal complaint to the OFT, please get in touch. Thank you.

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10 thoughts on “Advance Notice of Formal Complaint to the Office of Fair Trading about Anti-Competitive and Unfair Trading Practices by Kingsway Communications

  1. Pingback: Complaint Filed Against David C. Cook UK « Christian Book Shop Talk

    • Good post from Paul over in Canada, and I’d like to echo his appreciation of Phil’s willingness to step up and advocate for stores and consumers.
      Thank you Phil for being you and having the courage to do what you think is right, despite the hardships and heartache that I know this can bring.

  2. Just a few comments on this thread… I have been watching this discussion with interest, but have been wary of pitching in, as I would probably fall into the mea culpa category.

    1. Time precludes a full explanation, but, in summary, we too run a website where we have difficulties because the ‘engine’ that drives the website is too inflexible to cope with the various permutations required. So I suspect that the ‘Pre-order prices’, ‘RRP’s’ Our Price’ and ‘You save X%’ are hard-wired into the Kingsway system, basically generated each time a stock record is created. And we have discovered that any attempt to change the way this works is horribly expensive, time consuming and also has knock on effects to the rest on the package. So we have had to shrug our shoulders and say ‘That’s the way it is’. So I have some sympathy with the Kingsway position.

    2. I also (although I don’t like it) have some sympathy with the principle that online retailers have the opportunity to sell at a lower price than bricks & mortar retailers. They do have a lower cost base, better efficiencies in distribution- and much poorer customer service & ‘shopping experience’. So I am not overly excited by the fact that any retailer uses their online presence to sell cheaper, or the fact that us bricks & mortar retailers provide the justification for their ‘RRP’. If only one retailer (and we would be one) sells the product at the RRP, then I think legally Kingsway are justified in indicating that the customer is receiving a reduced price by purchasing online (the support of the ‘trade’, though, is a very different matter, and I would have a wider view beyond that comment.)

    3. I do wonder, though, why Kingsway have not taken the obvious route out of this, as we have done, by including a brief disclaimer on their website terms & conditions. Thats what we have done on our website to cover the fact that I do sometimes need to ‘make up’ publishers prices. As at this morning, I can see nothing on their website that mentions pricing policies and that would surely simple to do that- this would at least legally enable them to wash their hands.

    4. However, this now moves us to the main issue of the ‘complaint’, which is presenting online customers with pre-order offers AND SAVINGS which turn out to be (frankly) bogus, becuase the advertised savings never materialises. And I cannot see how this is justified. Phil is correct in saying this is illegal. I’m not a retail lawyer, but it seems to me that the Consumer Protection (Code of Practice for Traders on Price Indications) Approval Order 2005 1.3 Introductory offers is quite clear.

    “Do not call a promotion an introductory offer unless you intend to continue to offer the same product for sale at the same outlet after the offer period is over and to do so at a higher price.” What is there not to understand about this? In addition to be illegal, I do agree it is essentially disrespectful and deceitful towards customers.

    5. I do suspect (although I don’t know) that, again, this could be easily overcome by setting the ‘Our Price’ to equal the ‘RRP’ on their system on release. Although this (and the ‘You save O%) might look a bit silly, Kingsway would only need to sell at ‘top price’ for 28 days to clear the problem. It must surely be possible to set up a wee diary somewhere that says ‘reset KMCD1234 to normal online price today’…..

    6. While I would far rather than someone in Kingsway would ‘hold up their hands’ on this issue, given the long silence, then it surely must be justified that, as a trade, we police ourselves- that is very different to a witch-hunt. But, if this feedback on a ‘legal’ issue is ignored (or seemingly so) then I think notifying the responsible body would be fully justified. Their actions will not always be ‘legal’= their first response would be to contact Kingsway and ascertain the facts of the matter, and issue recommendations, well before they would move to prosecution or such like. These agencies do rely on interested parties (including ourselves) to act as their eyes and ears. And, of all sectors of retail trade, the Christian trade should be squeaky clean.

    ‘Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil’ (1 Thess 5:21,22 NIV).

    • Andrew.

      Thanks for your comments.

      Nice to hear from someone who does a similar job. I have regularly visited the GLO website, as the information it includes is very useful, you should be commended.

      • Luke, thanks for your kind words- much appreciated! Will pass onto our ‘webmaster’, Ewan, who spends hours on a voluntary basis keeping this reasonably up-to-date. He’ll be much encouraged.

  3. Within the last few days, we have had a very helpful conversation with James in customer services, and Oli, our kingsway rep.

    In spite of what is going on at the top, I would again like to thank both for being open, honest, and as candid as possible.

    They (and i’m sure many others like them) are a credit to the company, and a reminder about why it is so vital that Kingsway are restored to a position as leaders in the Christian market.

    There are certainly changes afoot which go some way to improving things for us, and will allow us to offer similar “pre-order” offers as they do, which is a step in the right direction.

    It is unfortunate that these people are not able to offer more help. It is a shame that the few people at the top who are able to make things happen are apparently unwilling to be reasoned with.

    I am certain that those people involved must know that they are in the wrong, and whether through pride and ego, or sheer pig-headded stubbornness seem now unable to recant on the issue.

    Let’s be fair, none of us here have done everything right every time, we have all made mistakes. I would like to think that when someone points these out to me, I would listen, but in reality, I am a stubborn ass sometimes, and, if i’m honest, i can think of a number of times when I have done the same thing, dragged my feet and refused to change, even when I know it would be for the best.

    The difference, however, is that i am not the head of one of the largest companies in Christendom, and my stubborness will maybe cost me a few pounds, a customer, or a friend, whereas the stubbornness of people at Kingsway have the potential to drag a great company, including it’s parent company David C Cook, through the mud.

    Therefore, i appeal to anyone at Kingsway who may still be reading this to urge those above you, John and possibly others, to please see sense, and at least address this issue, before it is too late.

    All we want is a reasonable answer. We’re not even demanding change (though i think it would be the right thing to do) just a reasonable discussion about why you are currently doing what you are doing.

  4. THANK YOU KINGSWAY.

    Anyone who has visited the Kingswayshop.com will notice a small victory for us.

    Gone are the “Our Price” “RRP” and “You Save” boxes on the pages of most products.

    Gone are the bogus “Pre-Order” Discounts.

    Replaced simply with a “Web Price” and, nothing else.

    It has yet to filter down to Kingsway owned PuraShop.com, but this is a serious step in the right direction.

    I on the few items i have checked, the “Web Price” is the old “our price” so they are still undercutting their retail partners, but in a way that is neither illegal, nor lies to their own customers.

    It is not entirely bannished, the search page still has some remnant of “RRP” and “You Save”, but I am willing to overlook this as a small oversight, or a “work in progress” glitch.

    Indeed, on all the “Pre Order” titles that i looked at, there is no evidence of any exclusive saving to be had by placing the pre-order, no indication as to what the price will be once it is releases, and as i mentioned, with the offers they are making available to retail partners on “Pre-orders” we should be well on our way to achieving price-parity on pre-orders anyway.

    Once again, thank you

    • Well spotted- this must have been updated this morning after 10am or so……

      This doesn’t happen overnight, so some serious thinking must have been going on somewhere behind the scenes- for some time. Might have been nice to note somewhere that this was underway- would have saved a few of us a lot of pondering & heartsearching?!

      None the less welcome for all that.

      • I think it happened between the time we made our last posts, and me coming to reply to your last one, but I can’t say for sure.

        I agree, while the outcome is good, or at least a lot better than we hoped (Still doesn’t quite ring true to the “We’re not trying to undercut our trade partners” mantra I keep hearing), I still feel that stubbornness or pride by a few people have made this thing much more of an issue than it ever needed to be.

        I was on the other side, not long ago, defending IBS-STL who, it could be argued, made some things worse for themselves by “going public”, so i can sort of understand the hesitance, but let’s be fair, withdrawing from the conversation didn’t really help IBS-STL, and it certainly hasn’t helped Kingsway.

        You are right in saying that this decision was not made overnight, and i feel it would have been much better for all of us, if they had even said “We are aware of it, we are working on it, We will fix it as soon as we can” rather than forcing us to threaten legal action to make it happen. A co-operative solution which we are all working together on, surely, has to be better than this???

        It is just a shame that, as Christians, we can’t trust one another to support us through difficult times.

        Clearly, Kingsway didn’t trust us to work on a solution with them, and we didn’t trust Kingsway to sort it themselves. It does not do any Christian any good to “go it alone”. Paul used the image of parts of a body for a reason, Although we are supposed to be doing different things, and in different ways, we should all be joined in unity at the same time.

        I understand what some have said, when they criticise us for discussing this in a public forum, when they say it affects how the world views the supposedly united Church of Christ Jesus, but at the same time, papering over the cracks, pretending that all is well when it isn’t, doesn’t solve anything either. If John, or others with the right to speak on behalf of Kingsway had taken this seriously, and agreed to address this, in any format, public or private, none of this would have been necessary.

        Regardless of when, or how, this took place, it saddens me that doing the right thing by our Christian brothers (both from Kingsway’s point of view, and at times our own) seems to get us nowhere, and only the threat of legal action does.

  5. Pingback: Thank you, Kingsway! « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

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