Simon asks: I’ve spent three days trying to order a cooker/hob. Currys has been far from helpful – it says there’s a technical hitch and it cannot process the order, but it is still offering the deal on its website.
I cannot contact anyone in Currys’ Head Office about this and I’ve been into my local store and had the same problem. Is there anything I can do?
Joanne Lezemore, Senior Solicitor for Which? Legal Service responds:
Frustrating as this situation is, when something is offered for sale, a company is not legally obliged either to sell it, or sell it for the price advertised. Legally, it is known as an ‘invitation to treat’ where you, as the consumer, offer to buy it and it is for the company to accept or reject that offer.
The retailer can refuse that offer if it decides that it doesn’t want to sell you the goods. To have a legally-binding contract the retailer must have accepted your offer to buy. So your rights depend on where in the sale process you are.
Unfortunately, if you order an item on the internet, you don’t have a legally-binding contract until the retailer has contacted you to confirm the order. In your case, as it doesn’t sound like you have had a confirmation of your order, it will be hard to get Currys to honour a sale that hasn’t been made yet.
However, it is a criminal offence for companies to have items on show for sale that either they would not sell, or never actually had to sell in the first place. If that is the case then they can be prosecuted by trading standards.
If you think that Currys is misleading customers about the prices of this item, you could report it to your local trading standards department to investigate. Trading standards have powers to force retailers to change their behaviour, but they can’t help with individual cases or force a retailer to sell you something for a certain price.
You can find more advice and information which may be of use in our guide to pricing disputes.
Have you got a similar experience to share? Did the company sell you the product or did you give up?