What to do about online price errors?

December 9 2009 by Ellen Roseman

Here are tales of two people who found online price errors — one at Future Shop and the other at Expedia — and kept complaining until they finally got a refund.

Getting refunds isn’t always easy to do. Companies write clauses in their contracts saying they have no responsibility for errors. They correct the price later and insist you pay the corrected price.

Also, you need to have the right evidence, such as a screen shot of the wrong price, that you can forward to the online retailer. If you can’t show the error, you may be out of luck.

As consumers, we need to insist that retailers have a responsibility to make good on price errors, whether they occur in stores, in print ads or online.

If companies choose to set up shopping websites, they have to make sure their prices are right before posting them.

10 comments

  1. AD

    Dec 9 2009

    I was directed to email you by others experiencing the exact same issue as me with Future Shop. A lot of us over at the RFD forum are all going through the same problem. Here’s the link:

    http://www.redflagdeals.com/forums/sold-out-fs-call-duty-modern-warfare-2-49-99-oct-19th-only-802863/84/

    Future Shop had a $20 off sale with 500 units on a PS3 game, Modern Warfare 2.

    My invoice (downloadable from my account on the Future Shop site) says I should be charged $39.99 + tax, but they charged my credit card for $59.99 + tax, despite me calling in to their customer service to confirm that I would get the $20 savings.

    I tried contacting them days ago and they have not replied. I haven’t tried calling in again because everyone in the RFD forum is doing it and getting the runaround, and I’ve wasted enough time as it is.

  2. JY

    Dec 9 2009

    On Oct. 18, I placed an order for Modern Warfare 2 (PlayStation 3) in quantity of 2, totaling $136.88 at the time of order. However, the game was supposed to be on sale for $49.

    On Oct. 19, I received an email from Future Shop Websupport stating that I will be getting the game at $49 and that is the price I will be charged for each game.

    Before receiving this email, I had to call into Future Shop on the morning of Oct. 19 to get the price adjusted and was promised that it will happen.

    After receiving the game on release date (Nov. 10), I was shocked to see my credit card being charged $136.88.

    On the invoice for my order it shows:

    ————-

    $39.99 x 2 = $79.98

    Subtotal: $79.98

    PST: $10.40

    GST: $6.50

    Total: $96.88

    ————-

    The reason for the additional price drop was because the MSRP (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) dropped.

    In reality and legally speaking, I’m supposed to be charged $79.98 x 1.13 (13% tax) = $90.38.

    Instead I’m being taxed on a subtotal of $119.98.

    ————-

    Sub Total: $119.98

    PST : $10.40

    GST : $6.50

    Total: $136.88

    ————-

    After calling into customer support many times, I was promised every time that a $60 credit was applied and would show up in my bank statement in 5-7 business days. It never did.

    After a few more calls, I was told that it would take 7-10 business days. So I waited along with many others.

    It has now been about 3 weeks and still no refund of my credits. During the last few calls to escalade this issue, I am now denied the credit, because I’m now not eligible for the credit.

    I ask them why and they can’t give me a valid reason, other than saying that’s the only note left on the order by the web processing department.

    Before all this, when I escalated the case for the incorrect charges on the tax shown in my invoice, I was credited $1.30, which is completely irrelevant to the incorrect calculation for the incorrect tax charges.

    But I did received the $1.30 and never got the rest of the credit back, so this proves that it is now past the 10 business days limit and my eligibility for the credits should legally be valid.

    After a few more calls, I’m still being told I was denied the credit with no valid reasons and that they will escalate this issue. After every escalation, I was told that I will be contacted via email within 24 hours and never was, no junk mail either.

    Even this one time when I was told that a floor support manager will take this problem directly to the department, I never got a reply back, even though they took down my contact info. I even sent a few emails to service@futureshop.com, but was completely ignored.

    I don’t believe that I will be able to resolve this issue without help. I am among possibly 500+ customers who are still waiting for their credits back from Future Shop.

    As I am part of a community called Redflagdeals.com, we are discussing the possible solution to deal with Future Shop promptly and professionally. So we are kindly asking for your help to help us resolve this matter.

    The discussion can be found here:
    http://www.redflagdeals.com/forums/sold-out-fs-call-duty-modern-warfare-2-49-99-oct-19th-only-802863/82/#post9838760

    And the letter quotes:

    Dear Customer:

    On your recent visit to futureshop.ca, you made a purchase of a Modern Warfare 2 (PS3)(Web ID 10125087).

    When your order was placed, this system was incorrectly listed as $69.99. The correct advertised sale price for this item was $49.99 for that day.

    Futureshop.ca strives to provide accurate and up-to-date information but occasionally, errors do occur. In the case of your order, we therefore inform you that futureshop.ca will be fulfilling your order for the Modern Warfare 2 (PS3) at the price of $49.99.

    Please accept our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience this matter may have caused you.

    We thank you for shopping at futureshop.ca and hope to serve you again in the near future.

    Sincerely,

    futureshop.ca

    After a second escalation by a floor manager, the credit was also denied and after a final call, I found out now that I am not going to get the credit back, period.

    The customer rep pointed out it was a price error and kept referring to the policy on the website about “reserving the right to not credit back any order.”

    It was clearly not a price error: $49 was supposed to be the sales price, but she referred to $59 as the sales price. It can’t be because $59 is the MSRP.

    So even with the email sent out promising to charge customers $49 for each game and the advertisement at $49, they are denying my credit back.

    A board discussion can be found here:

    http://www.redflagdeals.com/forums/sold-out-fs-call-duty-modern-warfare-2-49-99-oct-19th-only-802863/82/#post9838760

    Future Shop is being dishonest to their customers.

  3. Shannon Kidd, Future Shop spokeswoman

    Dec 9 2009

    Hi Ellen, this was a system glitch that were aware of, but it looks like there were a considerable number of orders impacted.

    The ecommerce team here is reviewing each and every order and adjusting prices and offering an additional gesture to every customer.

    JY has received a refund, which may take several days to appear on his card. In case you get more of these, just wanted to give you the context.

    We have a fairly new bunch of call centre people (we changed companies in July) and the learning curve seems to be a factor here also. We are reacting as fast as we can to rectify this.

  4. LT

    Dec 9 2009

    I am told by a co-worker that you continually help consumers who have been taken advantage of.

    I booked a hotel and flight to Las Vegas yesterday on Expedia.ca. The total cost of the trip, including taxes and service charges, was $875. This is the price I authorized to be charged to my Visa card.

    When I received the itinerary by email, I was charged $1,259.35 on my Visa. The difference of $384 represents an increase of 43%.

    The first Expedia agent I spoke to said the airlines can increase the prices at any time and Expedia has no control over this. I said I understood, but I should have seen something on the screen that said the package price had increased and asked me to accept this.

    I have re-checked this exact trip on the Expedia website on seven separate occasions and this exact trip is less than $875.

    I even called TD Visa (where I have a travel reward card) to dispute the charges. They said I would need to prove it. How many people take screen shots of every screen as they book a trip online?

    I was asked if I’d purchased trip cancellation insurance. I didn’t because I was leaving in two days.

    I think of trip cancellation insurance if you are worried you may be sick or have a family emergency and cannot get away, not to protect you from an online travel company ripping you off.

    I had a budget for this trip and the maximum I was willing to pay for 5 nights’ hotel and flight was $900. I cannot afford paying this higher price and this has put a lot of stress on what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation.

    I spent many hours yesterday afternoon and evening trying to resolve this. I waited unbelievably long wait times. I finished washing and drying a whole sink of dishes before my call was answered.

    I was told no supervisors were available in the afternoon and the agent refused to take my name and number to have one call me back. I finally got through in the evening after 7 pm.

    In the end, the supervisor said this would have to be investigated with their IT department to see if there was a computer glitch.

    I asked if they could have an answer before I left for my trip and the supervisor didn’t know. I asked if they could have an answer within a week, month, year, and the supervisor could not provide an estimate.

    Any help would be appreciated.

  5. Noor Marzook, Expedia.ca spokeswoman

    Dec 9 2009

    Hi Ellen, it appears that this case was the result of a rare technical glitch.

    Expedia customer service has contacted LT to let her know that she will be refunded the full difference of $384.35.

    As you know, Expedia.ca takes all customer complaints very seriously and does everything they can to resolve cases to the customer’s satisfaction.

    Thank you once again for bringing this to our attention.

  6. LT again

    Dec 9 2009

    I am now back in Toronto and wanted to let you know that I did hear back from Expedia with an answer the morning I was to leave for Las Vegas.

    They confirmed there was an error and committed to refunding me the difference.

    I really appreciate all you did for me and all the consumers who write to you for help.

  7. RH

    Dec 9 2009

    I went to a Best Buy store to buy a laptop on Nov. 16, but they did not have the one I wanted. I was advised that bestbuy.ca had the item in stock.

    I ordered the laptop through the website that day. The item was in stock. Shipping was free if I wanted it delivered on Nov. 23, but I opted for express shipping (an extra $17.12) to be delivered Nov. 19.

    Best Buy did a pre-authorization for $1 on Nov. 16. The order sat with them for 4 days and the laptop was not even shipped until Nov. 19 (the day it was to be delivered). The laptop arrived on the free delivery date (Nov. 23).

    I called Best Buy and they say it’s a Canada Post issue, which it is clearly not — Best Buy did not ship the product for 4 days when it was to be shipped the next day.

    Best Buy has told me that they’ve escalated the issue twice (I’ve had 3 conversations with them) and also that they’ve emailed me, but I never received the email and they were unable to tell me what the email said.

    Basically, I paid for the product to arrive early and it did not, instead arriving on the free delivery day. I believe that the extra shipping paid should be refunded.

    ————————————————————

    Shannon Kidd, Best Buy spokeswoman:

    Easy one. We’ll refund the shipping for this customer.

    Good training opportunity for our call centre.

    Thanks for passing on.

  8. Michael James

    Dec 9 2009

    This is an interesting one, Ellen. In the particular cases among the comments, it seems clear that these customers should get the price they originally agreed to.

    But what if the $875 flight to Las Vegas was mistakenly listed for $8.75? In this case, it would seem more fair to let the customer cancel without penalty, rather than to make the business honour the unreasonably low price.

    It would be harder to decide for in-between errors. If the business is forced to live with an incorrect price, the penalty can be high. But if the customer’s only choices are to either pay the real price or cancel, the customer may be paying the price of having to cancel a trip or do without some product that they had counted on.

    If you have several choices of flights to Las Vegas and choose the lowest price, only to be told much later that you have to either cancel or take a higher price, you’ve lost the opportunity to have taken the next lowest price.

    Deciding which approach is most fair could be difficult in some cases. No matter what, though, the customer shouldn’t be forced to pay a higher price with no opportunity to cancel without any charges.

  9. JT

    Dec 16 2009

    Ellen, like your other readers, I too am frustrated with Future Shop on their handling of this. Worse, they have overcharged my gift card, so I feel like I’m being held hostage — particularly at this time of year.

    I’ve contacted (first via email, then with phone calls) seven (yes, 7!) different individuals over almost four weeks. Each has promised action, but each promise has not been kept and each deadline missed.

    I thought about returning the item and picking it up elsewhere, but they’ve stalled me beyond their 30-day return period.

    How do we get in touch with someone who will listen and will deliver resolution?

  10. SaS

    Dec 30 2009

    Quote: “Shannon Kidd, Best Buy spokeswoman:

    Easy one. We’ll refund the shipping for this customer.

    Good training opportunity for our call centre.

    Thanks for passing on.”

    Easy for you, sitting in the ivory tower to say so. Not so easy for many customers. They have to jump through hoops and spend weeks in wait.

    The way it’s described, these unfortunate customers are used for “training opportunity”, Best Buy wouldn’t mind having plenty of it.