Groupon attacks ‘weak’ conduct code

Groupon has slammed a code of conduct designed to arrest growing concern over the misleading marketing practices employed by some in the sector as a “weak” move that fails to go beyond existing regulation.


Industry trade body the Global Daily Deal Association (GDDA) unveiled the code to promote “fair, honest and ethical best practice” in the industry in a bid to “improve its reputation with both consumers and merchants” last week. The voluntary, self-regulatory code covers complaints handling, refunds and advertising.

So far, just a handful of services have signed up. UK businesses comprise, Time Out Offers, MumsandMe and DealCollector. European sites comprise, Sweetdeal and Bownty.

Groupon, arguably the sector’s highest profile brand that was ordered to change its marketing practices by the Office of Fair Trading earlier this year after attracting hundreds of complaints about its promotions, says it will not sign up until changes are made that go beyond existing OFT and Advertising Standards Authority rules.

In a blog post, Sandra Quinn, Interim Compliance Director, says that code’s lack of “meaningful” enforcement capability or input from those regulatory bodies. “We believe it could confuse consumers about their rights, about the obligations of the firms they deal with and which bodies can meaningfully deal with their complaints and concerns. Consumer rights in this area are very clear – and they go above and beyond this Code.”

She continues: “The challenge for the industry – which we are determined to do something about – is to ensure that it delivers more than basic legal rights. So we feel that this code is weak.

So we are not shutting the door on an industry association or having a code. Far from it. We want to push for more than that.”

Sanctions for breaking the code are limited by its voluntary nature. Signatories breaking the code and subsequently failing to address breaches could be forced to withdraw from the agreement. Complaints could also be forwarded to the relevant advertising or competition authority.

GDDA chief executive Stavros Prodromou said in a statement announcing the deal: “We have spent a great deal of time producing a code of conduct that is suitable and relevant to the industry….The code is the first step towards improving the sector’s reputation.” The body was unable to provide further comment.



In a press release accompanying the publication of the code, GDDA chief executive Stavros Prodromou claimed that those signing up are “making a commitment to the future of this industry”, adding that the GDDA and code “are crucial to the sustainability and credibility of the daily deal industry”.

Successful voluntary self-regulation is dependent on two things: buy-in from the industry’s biggest players and regulatory stakeholders as well as effective sanction for those found in breach of codes.

The code of conduct appears to have been hastily assembled and needs to be rethought. It is, however, of worthy intent. Groupon, as well as other notable non-signatories such as LivingSocial need to do more to have their voices heard and not just snipe from the sidelines.

The daily deals industry has grown at a heady rate since it emerged in 2009 with over 8,000 entering the market since, claims the GDDA. It needs self-policing to ensure it continues to grow without becoming mired in disrepute. This can only be achieved if all industry players are working to the same ends by the same means.

Russell Parsons, Marketing Week news editor

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here