/ Money, Shopping

Pricing mistakes – should retailers pay for a mis-click?

Online shopping interface

Some things can be too good to be true. In online shopping, a price discount of 99% would seem to fall into this category. But if the discount turns out the be a mistake, should the retailer honour it?

That is what happened to some hopeful shoppers of Debenhams Lands’ End clothing range early on Friday morning, where a price glitch meant hundreds of items had a discount of 99%. This included a coat worth £90 that was advertised at the reduced price of just 72p.

However, anyone who bought an item through the Debenhams website expecting to receive the 99% discount will be left sorely disappointed. The retailer will not be honouring any of the orders and will be offering a full refund instead.

Dream discounts

This is not the first time an online store has made a discounting mistake.

Tesco disappointed customers last year by advertising the iPad for just £49.99 online, before subsequently cancelling all orders and offering refunds once they realised the error.

Back in January last year, Next also mistakenly advertised a pair of sofas worth £1,198 on its website for just £98. In the same month, Marks and Spencer advertised a 3D plasma TV, worth £1,099, for just £199. But in the case of Marks and Spencer, orders were honoured following an online petition by customers.

What are your rights?

We asked you for your opinions on pricing errors last year. Tpoots wouldn’t expect a very expensive mistake to be honoured:

‘I don’t think it’s fair to expect a business to honour a ‘deal’ which has obviously been put up in error. Fair enough expecting them to honour it where the difference is £20, but when it’s a couple of hundred – forget it.’

Em suggested an alternative solution:

‘I think the fairest way to resolve these situations would be for the retailer to offer to supply the mispriced goods at cost. That way, the retailer doesn’t lose out significantly, but doesn’t profit from their mistake either.’

Legally, retailers do not have to honour pricing errors when it is clear there has been a mistake.

It also depends on whether a contract has actually been created for the purchase of the goods. In the case of Debenhams, their terms and conditions state that a contract has not been made until goods have been despatched from their warehouse – even if money has been taken from your account.

Do you think retailers should always honour pricing mistakes, or should we cut them some slack? Would you be annoyed if your item was not delivered, or would you accept a refund?

Tulip Bicycle says:
25 March 2013

I think they should honour a pricing mistake once they have taken your money, even if they realise before the goods have left their warehouse.

“Physical” (e.g. high street) shops do not have to honour the price displayed on products or their shelves. On-line should be treated similarly.I agree that once the money has been accepted then the offer should be honoured

Mo says:
5 April 2013

Don’t they? I thought that was the rule – if they put 99p on the shelf ticket then you pay 99p until they change it to the right price, otherwise it’s mis-selling?

Ron says:
25 March 2013

When something appears to be too good to be true it probably is.

There seems to be a thought that because a mistake has been made by a big business they should honour it, but it’s probably been made by an individual pressing a wrong key or whatever.

We all make mistakes and we should have sympathy with the person who made the error, and laugh it off.

Sandra Whitehouse says:
26 March 2013

I do not think they should have to honour a pricing mistake. Nobody should profit from someone elses mistake. Someone somewhere is going to be in trouble for this surely, lets be fair.

I like Em’s suggestion (in the introduction) that goods should be sold at cost price in the event of a mistake. This could be difficult to establish the cost price, so perhaps the retail industry could suggest a suitable discount that could be applied in all cases.

If a retailer makes repeated mistakes or could be using them as a publicity stunt, Trading Standards should be informed.

Morrisons insist that where a checkout mistake is in their favour the shopper has to waste time queuing at the cigarette counter and give a name, address and signature however small the refund.

So when the mistake is in the shopper’s favour – tough.

do you not think they do it on purpose just to get your attention