Ask Which? – I bought something for nothing
Cheeky Frankie: I saw a Kindle case for £0.00 online, and for a laugh I ordered ten to see what would happen. Although I had to pay postage and packing, they were delivered. But now the website wants them back.
I was amazed to see I received a confirmation email stating I would be charged £3.95 for my purchase (just the p&p). I was even further surprised to receive my parcel a few days later.
I only did this for a joke, expecting to receive an email saying they had made a pricing mistake. I never expected to actually receive the items. However, I’ve received an email from the company asking for the goods back. Do I have to give them back, or as they have already sent them to me can I keep them? Thanks for your help.
Stephen McGlade, solicitor for Which? Legal Service, responds:
In order to show that you have a legally binding contract you must show that your offer to purchase the Kindle case was accepted by the company. Although there’s no authority on this point, the general position when shopping on the internet is that the offer is made by you when you click on the ‘submit’ or ‘order’ button. The acceptance would occur if the supplier accepts your offer by a further communication to you, such as by emailing an acknowledgement or confirmation with a reference for the order.
This is, however, subject to any T&Cs incorporated into the contract by the supplier. It is almost inevitable that purchasing via the web will involve such terms. For example, there could be term saying that ‘even though we acknowledge your order, this won’t bring into existence a legal binding agreement between us. No contract will exist until your card has been charged’.
Or you could have a term saying that, ‘your order represents an offer which is accepted by us when we send an email confirmation to you that we have dispatched that product to you. That acceptance will be complete at the time we send the dispatch confirmation email’.
However, even if you can show that you have a binding contract, there is still a way that the supplier could try and set the contract aside by arguing that a ‘mistake’ has been made. In other words the contract was not a true reflection of the seller’s intentions. This may mean having to prove that no reasonable person could have believed the offer to be genuine.
Yet, in your case, the supplier has done something further – it has charged the price to your card (£3.95) and has actually sent the goods to you. Therefore, you would be in a strong position to claim your Kindle cases at the agreed price, even if it was incredibly low.
So, the position would be that assuming that their T&Cs mirror what has been said above, and they did email an order confirmation upon either charging your card or actually dispatching the goods to you, then you should resist sending the cases back. You would be saying that the price paid for the cases was the £3.95 p&p.
Please be aware that the guidance given is limited by the information I have and should not be treated as a substitute for taking full legal advice.
Have you ever ordered something online only for the retailer to pull the deal? Did they honour their mistake, or cancel your order altogether?
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