Failure To Forecast Properly, Or Just Bait And Switch?

from the seems-like-the-latter dept

Over in the UK, it appears that a computer retailer put out an advertisement for a cheap laptop — and when people took them up on it, the firm ran out of stock. Instead of giving those who came later a raincheck, they instead said those users had to buy the same laptop for more money online — which seems like a classic bait and switch policy. UK consumer protection laws may be different, but it would seem fairly standard that if you promise a certain price during a promotion without saying something like “while supplies last,” then you should be required to deliver on the promise. That’s why it’s odd to see that the retailer’s defense was that they had tried to properly forecast demand, but had failed. That may be true, but it shouldn’t matter. If you’re going to offer a discount, you need to be prepared to live up to it no matter how many people take you up on it — even if your forecasting ability is dreadful. Of course, that didn’t even matter in this case, since the Advertising Standards Authority said they didn’t see any evidence that the company even tried to forecast demand. In other words, they put out this promotion without even thinking about how many people would take them up on it, sold out a few machines, and then told people they needed to spend a lot more money to get the computers. If they got away with it then any company could put out an ad, forecast just a few sales, and then tell people they need to spend more.

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Comments on “Failure To Forecast Properly, Or Just Bait And Switch?”

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DavidT says:

Implied "while supplies last"

I am no expert on UK law, but it seems reasonable that “while supplies last” is implicit in any offer to sell at a special price. I agree fully that a firm shouldn’t be able to advertise a special price and only have one product available (hence why car dealerships now list the stock # of the specific model advertised at a given price), but so long as they offered a reasonable amount of the product I don’t see why people can’t infer “while supplies last” just as they infer “so long as the company is in business” and “so long as selling this product is legal.”

If they intentionally limited supply then it’s sleazy, but we don’t seem to have any reason to know that they didn’t recieve a grossly disproportionate reaction.

In a related example, people seem to have finally accepted that just because there is a typo on that spreads like wirefire doesn’t mean that Amazon has to be held to selling a 42″ Plasma TV for $24.99 instead of $2499.00. The example is obviously very different, but it also supports the idea that just advertising a price doesn’t mean that you have to be held to it.

Rikko says:

Re: Implied

I seem to remember a story from a guy I worked with who also worked part time at Wal Mart. They had a large hanging price sign over some kayaks which were supposed to be 699.99. I think it was a young employee who missed a 9 and put up 69.99 – thus the kayaks were totally underrepresented wrt price. Someone came in and demanded 2 at the posted price – despite the fact that it was an obvious oversight and not false advertising.
He walked out with 2 of them for 69.99 a piece – I believe after coming back with his lawyer.

Adrian Davis says:

Re: UK contract to buy

I’m only a lay-person, but my understanding of UK law is that a contract between the two parties is only formed after the purchaser offers to pay a price and the seller accepts the offered price. This means that a retailer doesn’t have to sell anything to you at any specific price, especially when a reasonable person knows it’s a mistake. In this case it seems to be the misrepresentation, which is a breach of the Advertising Standards Authority rules, that has got them into trouble. After all that I would say DSG aren’t the most respected of UK retailers, I would avoid them unless they had a great deal that wasn’t available elsewhere.

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