Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Tue Jan 21 2014 17:13:19

Comparison Pricing Claims Can Land You in Hot Water

By: Ina Steiner

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Online retailers should be careful about the claims they make about their products, but many people believe it is up to shoppers to do their homework before making a purchase. A recent case has some people wondering just how far the government should go in protecting consumers.

The issue was raised when some California District Attorneys sued Overstock.com for allegedly overstating its deals and misleading consumers. Overstock.com said it was "fanatic" in getting it right when it came to its comparison pricing claims. The company explained that in one case cited in the lawsuit, the manufacturer had provided the retail price and said it was unaware that "another manufacturer sold the price elsewhere."

In a Salt Lake Tribune article about the case, commentors had various opinions, from this reader who wrote, "So basically some gullible people fell for a sale price without researching the actual value of the product," to the reader who wrote, "your website must conform to all laws and rules where ever you do business." One reader said California was over-aggressive in policing retailers operating in the state.

As online sellers, what do you think? When a retailer advertises comparison pricing, must they take into account every single competitor? Can they find the maximum price offered elsewhere and compare their pricing against that one retailer? Should it be up to the government to determine the methodology of a retailer's price comparison determination?

If you had to choose in this case, would you lean toward consumer protection or buyer beware?




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Readers Comments

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed Jan 22 07:18:38 2014

That old familiar saying "Let the buyer beware" indeed comes to mind.

Another ridiculous law suit.

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by: 1beck3 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 22 09:04:33 2014

Buyer beware.

The price of items on the internet is fluid and it's nearly impossible to keep up with everyone who sells similar items as you and what price they are selling it at.

It's no different than purchasing something in a store and it's 50% off 10 days later. The store may have a 7 day price adjustment so, unless you haven't used it and can return, you're out of luck.

As w/anything in retail, customers think they're entitled to everything. All you can do is be an ethical seller and let the cards fall where they may.

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by: mindelec This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 22 11:19:30 2014

buyer beware or more accurately "it's the buyers responsibility to do their own homework"

while overstock made a HUGE blunder by leaving a walmart price tag with a lower price on the item, it's still the buyers responsibility to search for the best price.

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by: Xander This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 22 13:53:08 2014

As internet sales becomes a larger part of our purchasing behavior, there will be more scenarios where buyers feel swindled.

Buyers need to be more careful with their purchases by doing the comparisons on their own instead of expecting merchants to do it for them. When we realize we made a bad buy, the burden should remain on us. If we don't like the deal, we can pay to ship it back and chalk it up as a lesson learned.

With current trends, buyers are learning they can hold others responsible for their clumsy purchases. As buyers, we need to be more thorough with our research before making a purchase and when we make a mistake, take responsibility instead of attempting to make merchants pay for our careless shopping habits.

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by: trader_chris This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 23 00:19:19 2014

The burden should be on the shopper to find the best deal, not the retailer to offer it.

According to this Quartz article I read last month (http://qz.com/157828/amazon-changes-its-prices-more-than-2-5-million-
times-a-day/
), Amazon makes more than 2.5 million price changes a day! And I'm sure there are still instances where other competitors offer better deals. It's just the nature of e-commerce.

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by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 23 09:52:42 2014

Buyers need to do their homework.
Does not matter if you walk into a store or buy online.
Amazon had an Epson printer marked at $59.00 (same price as local Walmart). 2 days after Christmas (going by memory) the price jumped to $98.00. Next day, back down to the $59.00 price.  Wonder how many they sold at the higher price??? I bought mine at Walmart. The day I seen the $98 price on Amazon. Thought maybe holiday special so get it at the low price.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Thu Jan 23 11:35:58 2014

It should be buyer beware. With the incredibly large number of online sellers, I think it would be virtually impossible to know what a particular widget is selling for in every web store/site.



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