Price Displayed vs Price At Checkout - The Law??

  Jester2K 15:44 06 Jan 2004

There have been a few cases in the new (Kodak for one) and loads on here where someone advertises, say, 1 Gb DDR RAM @ £0.50p (Inc VAT and P&P) on the internet. When someone tries to buy it at the price stated the product is withdrawn stating it was an error.

Now i've always been told that if you walk into a shop and see the same thing (1 Gb DDR RAM @ £0.50p (Inc VAT)) then you are entitled to buy it at that price.

1) Am i wrong about the shop prices?

2) If not, why is it different buying on the web than walking in a shop?

  anchor 15:57 06 Jan 2004

As I understand it; the displayed price is "an invitation to treat". It does not mean that the seller has to sell you at that price. I assume that this is as true on the web as it is in a shop.

However, if you you receive an acceptance to your offer, (either verbally, or by e-mail), then a contract has been made. In these circumstances the seller is legally obliged to sell you the item at the agreed price.

I am not a lawyer, but have assisted in many law exams at a university, where this problem is an old favourite in Contract Law exams.

  bfoc 16:32 06 Jan 2004

Consists of a number of parts.

Simplistically there needs to be 'offer', 'acceptance' and 'consideration'.

If a shop, online or high street, advertises an item at £2.99 instead of £299 that would be an offer. It would only be when the price was agreed and a consideration made that this would become contractual. The consideration would usually be the payment of the price/deposit.

If any part of this process is not gone through then there will not be a legally binding contract.

In those cases where people received 'bargains' (Kodak or myself on where I got an £80 room for £8) it was because they had received confirmations (acceptances) and their payment had been taken.

If someone advertises incorrect prices deliberately then there are there are other leagl remedies but that will not be contract based!

  Stuartli 16:36 06 Jan 2004

You are right in that the displayed price is one that is on offer and that the seller doesn't have to sell to you at that price - in fact you can haggle if you wish.

However, most online firms send out e-mail confirmations of orders virtually instantaneously so it is debatable whether your comment would definitely apply.

If you have "assisted in many law exams" then surely you should be offering a soundly based comment on "an invitation to treat" rather than that you "understand"?

Some links that should be useful:

Online shopping:

click here

click here

click here

click here

click here

You can complain online to your local Tradings Standards at:

click here

  Forum Editor 18:15 06 Jan 2004

and say: Can I have one of those pineapples - the ones marked 20p?

Greengrocer: I'm sorry, that price isn't right - they are really £2.20.

You: OK, I'll have one.

And you pay for it. That's the point at which the contract exists, the moment when you pay the money and the greengrocer takes it. Prior to that either one of you can withdraw. The only exception would be if you gave the greengrocer a promissary note in which you undertake to pay the agreed amount at a specific time. If he accepts that, then a contract also exists, and it exists if you agree to take delivery of the pineapple at a different time as well.

In real life this kind of attention to detail doesn't particularly matter - we buy and sell things all the time, and few people think about the legal side of it.........until something happens to bring it to the fore - like a camera being advertised at a greatly reduced price.

  Salinger 18:41 06 Jan 2004

It is as morally indefensible to urge people to order obviously incorrectly priced items, via the Web, as it is to promote the theft of intellectual property via the Web. Yet some people who are vociferous against stealing the latter seem to find it OK to point out obvious errors in pricing and to urge others to jump on the bandwaggon and order at the incorrect price. This is also tantamout to stealing.

  bfoc 18:59 06 Jan 2004

If a contract is made at an agreed price and that price is paid there is nothing 'morally indefensible' about it!

Remember there must be offer, agreement and consideration. Nobody is forced to follow the process. They CHOOSE to do so and then must accept the results of their actions.

  oresome 19:58 06 Jan 2004

The greengrocer example is fine where a single pineapple is concerned. Both parties have the time to consider the transaction at point of sale. However if the greengrocer is Tesco for example, and the pineapple is put in the trolley, along with another 60 items, believing it to be 20p, the same consideration cannot be given at the checkout to each item. Under these circumstances I feel rather annoyed when checking the bill at home to find I have been charged £2.20.

  josie mayhem 20:34 06 Jan 2004

Once apon a time, an assistant would serve you over a counter, you pointed at the product on the shelf, you were told the price etc, then transaction was completed.

Then came the self-service super market, and every item was tagged, for along while a supermarket had to sell that item at the price on the tag, until they cotton on to some people had very little morals, so now the law stands that a shop keeper can refuse to sale that item (withdraw from transaction)at the marked price if they believe that a error has been made or price tag altered/changed.

If a shop ower is deliberatly marking lower prices to gain custom, by withdrawing from transaction and then offereing said item at a higher correct price, then he could be delt with under the false advertising act (whatever it is)but I should imagine that it would take a lot of cancelled tranactions over a long period of time, cover many different items before an action was taken.

  daijohn 20:36 06 Jan 2004

Whilst accepting that the three conditions for a contract are as stated, are we actually stating tht the contract does not exist untill the money changes hands? I can imagine restaurateurs getting a bit mad at the end of a meal if I suggested that no contract existed and I wasn't going to pay.

Certainly if the vendor agrees the price - even if it is obviously wrong (to me), I would expect them to stick to it, to the extent of arguing that a contract existed at that time. A small claims court would settle the matter at minimal cost and County Court Judges are usually on the side of the individual.

  liveD Backwards 20:39 06 Jan 2004

the law states that if an item is incorrectly labelled, the retailer can withdraw the item from sale and it must remain off sale for 24 hours. It can then be returned to sale at the correct price.

I must agree with salinger about the urging of people to try and obtain goods at silly prices....would you really expect to walk into pc world and pay a silly price for a product simply because someone had incorrectly labelled it?

And as the FE says, the contract to sell is not made until both parties agree on the selling price, if you query a price at any point, the vendor can simply say "Sorry, i will withdraw the item from the sale" and the vendee can do absolutely nothing. Of course, if a retailer does this constantly, it will do nothing for customer relations.

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