Taiwan Regulators Tell Dell It Must Sell Mispriced Monitors At $15

from the ouch dept

Ever since e-commerce began there have been stories of mispriced items — and following that, stories of the mad rush to buy the mispriced product (especially when it involves misplaced decimals, shrinking the price by orders of magnitude). In the US, at least, it’s quite clear that such a mispricing need not be honored by the retailer, though public pressure often leads the retailer to offer something to those who tried to buy, just for the sake of PR. Given that, it’s quite surprising to see Taiwan regulators tell Dell that it needs to honor the 140,000 monitors that were sold for about $15 each when they really were supposed to be $150. It’s difficult to see how it makes sense to enforce the lower price. It was a clear mistake, and most of the orders were clearly only made due to the mistake.

Filed Under: ,
Companies: dells

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Taiwan Regulators Tell Dell It Must Sell Mispriced Monitors At $15”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
CmdrOberon says:

Perhaps we only ever hear of the mispriced items that
are cheaper, but it sure seems suspicious that Dell never
has a $150 available for $1500.

If all these misprices are supposed to be accidental,
then there ought to be some hilarious mispricing
in the opposite direction too.

Strangely, mispricing upwards never seems to happen.

Even stranger, the opposite seems to happen in retail
stores: if the price on the shelf doesn’t match the
price of the scanner, the scanned price is usually higher
than the shelf price.

I wonder why that is.

Headbhang says:

Re: Re:

I’m pretty sure up-mispricings also happen sometimes, but are obviously not as readily publicized or noticed. The worst that can happen is that nobody buys the accidentally outrageously priced item. Whereas in the opposite case… well, something like this.

You acknowledged the reporting bias yourself, that’s why they “never seem to happen”.

Anonymous Coward says:

“It’s difficult to see how it makes sense to enforce the lower price.”

I fail to see your logic in this. You go on and on about the “power of free”, and at the same time, ignore something called a “loss leader”. Offering something at one price and then refusing to sell it is called bait-and-switch, and has driven a lot of companies out of business (Sun Electronics is one from my area that was known for this decades ago). Recently, this happened to a LOT of NY companies that were selling cameras.
Having the government enforce customer price protection in this regards can only be a GOOD thing – otherwise, what will prevent EVERY company from offering widget xyz at $15 and then charging you $350 for it?

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

But there are laws that protect sellers in the case of obvious jest or mistake. If a price on a monitor is 10% lower than it should be than the website would be making a huge deal out of it (how can it be a loss leader if no one knows about it). If there is no sale sign, it should be a fairly clear indication that something is up (especially from Dell).

Now, those laws are in the US, I don’t know about Taiwan.

It all depends on how Dell handled it. At Sun Electronics one was forced to pay that price and the “mistake” was never fixed (I don’t know for sure, I’m just going off my experience at Best Buy). If Dell announces that mistake and offers to return the money and fixes that mistake than it’s probably a mistake.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is one troubling aspect to this story which is not revealed in Mike’s story. The original article states that the monitors were sold for $15, not “about $15,” as Mike states above. The article also states that the actual price of the monitors was $148, not that they were “supposed to be $150,” also as Mike states.

Unless there is more information from another article, it appears that more than just a simple decimal error happened. I would think that a simple decimal error would count as a legitimate mistake. Changing pricing from $15 to $148? That sounds more akin to bait-and-switch.

technomage (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Lori, you nailed it in your statement.

“The fact that they announced the error and offered compensation for it is pretty telling in a company as large as Dell.”

Dell manufactures in bulk, so much so, that the monitors probably only cost them 15 dollars each. Also, typographical error from 150 to 15 I could understand, but not 148 to 15. That was deliberate. Whether they wound up mixing their wholesale price with their retail price, that is their problem. Again, if it was caught before the transactions were completed, I would say ok on the apology. If the transaction went through, a deals a deal. The contract has been signed. Dell is out of luck there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I may have been unclear in my previous post. I was not accusing Dell of bait-and-switch, but describing how it seemed or could seem to be bait-and-switch. I think the Taiwanese manufacturer and Dell also saw how it could be perceived that way as well and did the right thing.

I am with Technomage on this one. Had the error been $15 to $150, I would have gone with the thought that obviously the price was in error and not honored sales, or not honored any multi-monitor sales (their discretion). The law does permit honest and obvious mistakes to be corrected, but courts tend to look at these “errors” carefully to be sure they errors and not bait-and-switch, even if the “bait-and-switch” is inadvertant. Changing a price from $15 to $148 just looks bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

From the article:

Taiwan consumer regulators have ordered Dell to honor an online pricing error that offered 19-inch LCD monitors for only NT$500 (US$15, £9).

The agency said in a statement (in Chinese) it received 471 complaints after Dell corrected the listing to the intended price of NT$4,800 (US$148, £90).

So US$15 -> US$148 or NT$500 -> NT$4800 seem fishy, but £9 -> £90 could have just been a decimal error.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ever heard of rounding?? It’s this new math tool people use so if something is say $14.8 but they don’t want to use a decimal place, they’d round it to $15.

FYI, if the last digit is >= (that’s greater than or equal to) 5, you increase the second to last number by 1.
$14.5 = $15
$14.7 = $15

If the last digit is

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Making assumptions, which is what you are doing, can lead to an incorrect conclusion. It is safer to assume the facts are correct as reported until modified by later facts. One number may have been rounded and the other not, but one would think that this information would have been discussed as it leads to a conclusion of decimal point error rather than obvious mis-pricing. Right now I am going on the theory that a moron in a hurry keyed in a wrong price rather than just a simple decimal point error – based only on the information as reported in the article.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Funny you should mention about. The original article said $15, not “about” $15. The original article also said $148, not “about” $148. $15 to $150 is a decimal error. $15 to $148 is not a decimal error. £9 to £90 is a decimal error. If Mike was going to focus on the decimal error, the £ values should have been quoted, not inconsistently converted dollar equivalents.

josh (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Wow. I would hate to live in your house. Your kids must hate birthdays and christmas.

You: “How much did you spend on this gift for me?”

Kids: “About…”

You: “Don’t give me any of this about crap! I want exact figures!”

Kids: “But daddy, we bought so much stuff that day. And we didn’t keep our reciept.” (crying)

You: “Well that will teach you. Go return all the gifts, re-buy them, and tell me the exact price you payed!”

yeah. All kinds of fun at your house.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I wonder what children have to do with this discussion? Accuracy “for the children”? What next? Accuracy kills kittens? Please. Mike changed the facts of the story as it was reported, which enhanced a possible decimal point error, but the numbers he reported were in fact his, and they were wrong. Worse, he could have used units of pounds and his story would have been better supported.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

And a decimal point error, which is a data entry error of some kind, is significantly different from a data entry error of the wrong price?

You guys going on and on about which of the two it was: What’s the freaking difference?

Mike mentions the interesting case of decimal errors because they are more frequent, and easy to enter, but harder to catch. But either way, an error is an error.

And for those of you (AC) pissed that Mike “said it was a decimal error in Taiwan, but it wasn’t” have a look at how Mike discussed the decimal error matter. It was in a completely generalized context:

“Ever since e-commerce began there have been stories of mispriced items — and following that, stories of the mad rush to buy the mispriced product (especially when it involves misplaced decimals, shrinking the price by orders of magnitude”

Man! You’re the kind of people that could get struck by a lightning bolt, die, and spend your dying moments arguing whether the bolt shot up, or down.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

WTF? Does anyone here actually know what “Bait and Switch” is?

There was no switch here. It was “bait and sell”. That is a clear indication of a pricing mistake, not a shady sales strategy.

For the record, Bait and Switch would occur IF the website advertised the $15 monitor, displayed it for sale, but would 1) not let you purchase it as they hard-sell a more expensive monitor, or 2) only let you purchase it after hard-selling a more expensive product. Do you see how both of my actual cases involve a “switch”. There was no switch in the Dell case.

Who cares whether it was a decimal glitch or a different glitch? It has none of the telltale signs of a scam. It was a mistake, bears all the trappings of a mistake, people flash-mobbed to take advantage of the mistake, and Dell should get egg on their face, and that’s about all.

Haywood (profile) says:

Re: NY companies that were selling cameras.

I tried that, selected a nice Nikon, no accessory package and paid. I later got a call that they were out of that model and could substitute a higher priced one if I would pay the difference. Pretty obvious bait and switch. I canceled & bought a top of the line Nikon from local Craig’s list & picked up in person.
I hope the regulators have done something about those scam artists.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: NY companies that were selling cameras.

Something about Brooklyn-based etailers is that they always end up doing this. Classic bait and switchers. Not sure why, might be one organization that keeps popping up with different names. Their low prices make them show up high on the pricegrabber.com type sites, but they don’t actually have that item at that price.

Cameras are also a very popular bait and switch ecommerce item.

Of course, this is very different from the Dell case in that there is a definite “bait” and a hard-sell “switch”, which Dell never did.

Anonymous Coward says:


It’s probably the law in Taiwan (or regulation) that the consumer must sell at the advertized price, else it’s fraud or something like that. I’ve heard of similar laws in other countries too. If a company misprints it’s advertized price and a consumer buys their product – tough titties; they should of double checked their advertisment.

Sean T Henry (profile) says:

Re: Speculation

I wish that it was like that in the USA if the issue is not caught before checkout the price needs to be honored. I remember a few years ago when BestBuy misspriced a video card on preorders (I believe it was the first Nvidia that supported chaining then together) and some guy purchased it online for pick-up was arrested for trying to take delivery of the product.

Found a link http://www.warp2search.net/contentteller/news_story/buy_a_geforce4_ti4600_and_get_arrested_bestbuycom.html

Ima Fish (profile) says:

It’s difficult to see how it makes sense to enforce the lower price

I’m with the regulators here. If Dell made mistake on its website and when consumers tried to buy were told, “Ooops, it’s a mistake, sorry.” I’d agree with you.

But if the consumers are able to complete the sale and obtain a confirmation that the sale went through, then I see no basis to allow Dell to back out.

The problem is, when it’s a mistake to the detriment of a large corporation, the corporation wins. But when the detriment is to the little guy, like the guy who dares to turn on his iPhone in Canada and gets a bill for several thousand dollars, the corporation still wins.

Arthran says:


In the UK we have a law covering this, if an item is advertised at one price, but its real price is something different it HAS to be sold at the advertised price. if for example an item has a shelf lable at £10 and the product has a price on it of £8.99, the 8.99 takes effect as by law you have to sell an item at the lowest price its advertised at. There are a few co-outs to this, you can refuse to sell the item at the lower price if you then remove ALL of that item from sale and re-price.

But in this case, the sales went through, people got their order confirmation ‘s. you cant go back on a sale that has been confirmed.

Michael Kohne says:

I don't see a problem...

With regulators requiring a company to sell at the advertised price. As long as they apply the same logic to all companies, it just means you need to be CAREFUL about your pricing and not rely on ‘oops, I screwed up’ rules.

There’s nothing much wrong with having it either way, just as long as the regulations are clear and consistently applied.

Anonymous Coward says:

You do know why this is part of regulation right?

Its not consumer protection (because vendors could simplying refund the $15.) its about monopoly and anti competition. Dell priced monitor at $15. Drive sales of maybe other item to their sites, increase revenue, then says ops, sorry, mistake. Now, HP just lost potential customers because of marketing tricks. Granted, its a geniue mistake by Dell but the idea is the same and Laws are made to protect business from unfair competitions.

John Doe says:

I am surprised at the responses here...

I am surprised at the responses here but I guess I shouldn’t be. They screwed up so why should they shell out the almost $19 million dollars to cover the difference? It isn’t like they are selling bread and milk; these are luxury items. So somebody doesn’t get a good deal on the monitor is it going to be the end of the world?

While I might put in an order for an item like this but I wouldn’t complain if I didn’t actually get it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I am surprised at the responses here...

First off, most retailers have their own policy that addresses these situations as mentioned in the article, for good PR.

But your biggest flaw in your argument is saying that “It isn’t like they are selling bread and milk; these are luxery items,” –First off, what if these people buying them use them for their businesses? –second, “luxery item” or not, a price was posted, sales were made and the customer deserves to have the retailer honor the sale.

You are right that it’s not the end of the world, but then again, imagine what would happen is the “bread and milk” industry started posting prices for their products and then claiming it was a simple “mistake.”

Paul Brinker (profile) says:

Thats a big chunk of change

Something is fishy here, the amount of orders of the 15 dollar screen is just staggering. I can accecpt that the first orders should most definatly be ligit, but dell does not sell that many computers per day to cover 140,000 orders over a vary short time the bug existed.

just some math for my point

normal selling price = 150 x 140,000 = 21 Million
discount price = 15 x 140,000 = 2.1 Million
Dell is going to take a loss of 18.9 million from this judgment.

Now doing a quick wholesale search I found the cheapest price around 120 each but since dell has larger orders and better buyers I could see this price cut to 100 or even 80 each. Even at this price dell is taking such a large loss and never advertised outside one specific webpage this price that its insane that it could be anything but a mistake or actual fruad from an employee (who could get rich off buying lots of them)

josh (profile) says:


I have to add my two cents here.

I spent close to ten years working in the grocery industry in California. Near the end of my time with them, the grocery chain I worked for had almost bi-weekly, unscheduled visits from weights and measures. Now this wasn’t because my particular store was doing anything wrong, but that there were three or four stores that had been nailed for improper pricing and sales.

Basically what this means is that even if an employee screwed up making signage or placing tags, the price that that was in front of the item better match what it scanned at the register. If it didn’t, and it didn’t matter if it was low or high, the store and the chain were fined. And it was a fine in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It got to the point that we were so paranoid that we were triple checking everything in the store, not just the department we worked in. If anything was wrong, we had to be prepared to honor it at that price. If that meant that a $80 bottle of scotch was sold for $20, then so be it.

All due to regulations by the state, and possibly federal government, department called Weights and Measures. This applies to any store that sells anything. Not just to items that have to be weighed first. If the item once scanned does not match the price that the sign says, the store is in violation of regulations.

Here’s an experiment to try. Go to your local Wal-Mart and find a display of an item that has a price that looks too good to be true. Using your trusty Cell Phone camera, start recording video. You might want to make sure that you have a phone with a memory card in it and set your video to full size recording. Record the display, maybe your watch (with date and time), the price on the display, and leave your camera running. Go get in line and make your purchase. Now the fun part. If the item scans at a higher price, tell the cashier and watch the fun. They will send a manager to check on the display. The manager will come back and tell you that you were wrong, of course, and that the display sign matches the price scanned. Now, go back to the display with the manager and you will see that yes, it does match. But, just 5 minutes ago, it didn’t. Now you get to pull out your cell phone, still recording of course, and show the manager the video. Then see what happens. You will probably get kicked out of the store for videotaping without permission and they will not sell you the item.

This may seem like an extreme condition, but it’s happened to me at least twice, and to other people I know several times. The only way to get them to honor that price is to force them to with the proof.

Now when it comes to a website deal, screenshots rule. Don’t let them try to fake you out like that.

Bob Bunderfeld (profile) says:

Perhaps it has happened too many times?

Perhaps what the Regulators were telling Dell is that this type of “mistake” has happened all too frequently and they are no longer going to decide of this was a mistake or not.

A company the size of Dell should have many layers of checks when a website is changed to reflect a new price for an item. I find it a bit too convenient that Dell claims “it was a mistake” when this “mistake” seems to occur more then once a year.

Dell needs to buck up and take it on the chin with this one, and review their procedures for Website changes. Why the consumer is always asked to “be the big boy” when this happens seems, to me at least, is wrong. I’m willing to forgive a company’s mistake once, but if that company continues to claim “mistake”, then it should be the responsibility of that company to insure it doesn’t make mistakes; one way to help assure that Dell and other company’s stop making mistakes is to hold them responsible for such mistakes.

As for the consumer wouldn’t have purchased this except for the price, while that may be true, just why is it the consumer who gets penalized for the company’s “mistake”? We are always saying people need to take personal responsibility for their mistakes, shouldn’t we also expect the same from the Company’s we do business with?

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Perhaps it has happened too many times?

This is a zero sum game. If the monitor sells for $15, Dell gets a big loss, and the customer gets a big gain.

But if we cancel the sales, how does the customer lose? They are net zero, same place they were the day before the purchase. Dell is also net zero. That is the best outcome.

People arguing that a deal is a deal, and a contract is a contract. OK, if you have the monitor at your house, maybe the deal is concluded. But if Dell realizes promptly the error, and hasn’t shipped the screen yet, is the deal really concluded? In the US, we don’t bill the customer until the item ships…so if that is also the case in Taiwan, no charge made to the customer, no LCD shipped, and no “signed contract” as a few people have suggested. Just a few clicks on a web page and a confirm email.

Yes, Dell should look stupid, lose brand value, have people somewhat annoyed at them, but they should not be forced to give everyone a windfall.

Lion XL (profile) says:

Reasonable Expectation...

Reasonable Expectation is the key phrase here. I don’t believe that there is any reasonable expectation that a new monitor would cost $15. Period. The only reasonable expectation here that every one expected to get over on an obvious mistake.

And for the record, bait and switch is when you advertise a sale on one item, and then hard sell on a different, more expensive item, on the basis that the cheaper item is no longer available. Even if I hard sold on a more expensive item yet the cheaper item was still available, technically its not bait and switch. (I work in retail!)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Reasonable Expectation...

“Hard sell” is not required. Also, bait and switch can occur under other circumstances. For example, Dell offers $15 monitors and then later claims that the $15 monitors are unavailable, but $148 monitors are. Unfortunately for Dell, they actually sold thousands of $15 monitors, “proving” they were for sale and avoiding a “bait-and-switch” accusation. Had Dell voided all $15 sales and pointed people to the $148 monitor, a “bait-and-switch” accusation could easily be made.

I alos think too many here are making an incorrect assumption that $15 is “obviously” wrong. A few years ago a radio station teamed up with a gas station for a one-day gas sale to advertise a particular year (I think it was the year the radio station was founded, they wanted gas to be the price it was that year). So, for 8 or 12 hours a particular gas station had $.60 per gallon gas when gas was around $2 per gallon. Is that an “obvious” mistake or an advertising gimmick?

Just because something is ridiculously reduced in price does not mean it is an error. I just saw this week where Wal-Mart reduced the price of the leading national colas to $4.40 per case, which had to be below their cost, and the “sale” was not advertised in any outlet I saw. In fact, the newpaper circulars I got showed cases of cola were priced at $5.50 per case, but store displays were at $4.40. Mistake or loss leader?

We could think of thousands of examples where stores provide ridiculously low prices on something to draw in the crowds. As someone else pointed out earlier, I could see Dell selling $15 monitors hoping something would go viral – which seems to have happened.

As others noted, Dell did the thing that was not only stand-up, but they did the one thing that would keep customers happy – even if they took advantage of a Dell mistake – and regulators happy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Reasonable Expectation...

Reasonable Expectation is the key phrase here. I don’t believe that there is any reasonable expectation that a new monitor would cost $15. Period. The only reasonable expectation here that every one expected to get over on an obvious mistake.

I suppose that you’re either being facetious or you’ve never heard of sales and promotions (like black Friday).

Lachlan Hunt (profile) says:


In Australia, if the scanned price at the register is higher than the marked price, you’re entitled to receive that item free, or, if you’re buying more than one, the first item free and the remaining items at the lower price. This applies to all retailers that have signed up to the voluntary Scanning Code of Practice, which most major retailers have done. I’m not sure how this would apply to online retailers though, or what the rules are for retailers haven’t signed the voluntary code of pracitce.

Lion XL (profile) says:

Reasonable Expectation...

and I’d also like to add…this why our economy is so suck ass right now. If every company takes a $19 million loss, who do you think ends up paying the ultimate penalty? The consumer. OK, so 140,000 consumers got a great deal, but that tab gets picked up me, you and every one else that buys anything from dell in the future as they will build that loss back into their pricing scheme. Not mention they drop couple a hundred jobs, to compensate for said loss.

weneedhelp says:

Walmart had 5 quart containers of oil on the shelf at 12:15 pm on a Sunday, marked for $10.99. I bought it and realized when I got home they charged me $14.99. When I went back they adjusted the price on the shelf. I told a manager what had happened and he reimbursed me the difference plus gave me a 10 dollar gift card. If it is marked a price, honor it…period. Dont care if it is a 1500.00 dollar TV marked at 150. If you have that price posted, that is what it is, at that time, mistake or not. Just need to double check, and triple check before hitting save. In my case they should have changed the price on the shelf before the change at the register.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

” If it is marked a price, honor it…period”

Yeah, but that should be a PR or policy decision that the store gets to make. Until you exchange funds and goods at the register, they should be able to say “oops, my bad, this was labelled wrong” and you should be able to say “I won’t be coming back here”.

If your way prevails, how many customers will be moving pricing stickers in stores, and then saying “it was labelled at $1 – now honor it.”

Tin Man says:

Please do not be misled by Dell. There was never a wrong price labeled on the website. The price was the same before ,during and after the whole fiasco.

Dell is simply denying the discount offer it was given that night. It may be called a wrong discount, but the price was never wrong.

I simply can’t stand it when Dell won’t apologize for their mistake while still trying to mislead the world…….

another mike (profile) says:

u no can haz discount

The local shops here reserve the right to not honor a misprint or typo error in their printed sales circulars. They started including that in fine print, I guess to protect themselves against just this sort of thing. They probably snuck that in a while ago but it caught my eye the other day.

“The sales flyer offers whatchamajiggers for $4.99 but they rang up at $14.99? Oh well so sorry, the typesetter screwed up and they really are supposed to be $14.99.”

tim says:

last week I also bought a LCD on site…but right now I really dont care about Dell will give me that or not(even $15)…the point is they took one week and try to say nothing, after Taiwan Consumer Protection Commission star to say something…then at first time Dell say those order were not Accept then now they get me a useless E-mail will two line “we are sorry… we give you $25 you can use on the site…we really care about our customers”

P.S I bought one 20″ LCD…but…I really dont care I will get it or not

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...