Rubbish retailers rise again

Cathy Adams's picture

Finding a wide-screen plasma state-of-the-art telly for a mere £79.99 must be the stuff of dreams. Or maybe not, if the price is actually £799.99 and said retailer has simply misplaced the decimal point.

Last night, a colleague ordered a Samsung 40 inch LCD TV from entertainment retailer at the advertised price of £79.99. Everything seemed above board: he placed the order and got a confirmation email. While it was a stupidly cheap price, he hoped the website would honour that price.

Then, this morning, he received another email stating:

“We are writing to inform you that your recent order for the Samsung series 5800 UE40C5800 40" LCD TV was incorrectly listed. Unfortunately we will not be able to supply you with this item at the incorrectly advertised price and your order has been cancelled.”

Yet there was no return email address or number given in the email for customers to call. The TV was only on offer for about 45 minutes, during which time only a couple of orders could have been made.

There’s a huge autumn sale going on at at the moment – so there was no reason not to think that the cheap price wasn’t a sale price.

And when he eventually found a number on the website and phoned it, simply responded that it wasn’t obliged to sell a product at an advertised price. I wasn’t sure that was right, but having done a quick Google search, it turns out it is. Apparently, no retailer is legally obliged to sell a product, and no consumer is legally obliged to buy it.

I can’t help but think this wouldn’t have happened on the high street. If something is wrongly priced in a shop (and this happens a lot) usually the shop has enough foresight to offer the customer the product at that price. While it might not legally have to, it’s the epitome of customer service and ensures good relationships.

And so he’s back to the drawing board with no TV and little patience for his lack of rights.

Has this ever happened to you? Let me know below.


Your Comments

I have no axe to grind here Cathy, but I too heard about this last night, from an excited friend who'd already ordered a dozen, and who in turn had heard about it from a friend who'd ordered several dozen. Clearly not all customers were as innocently unaware of the mistake as your own downtrodden friend and to be honest although I sympathise with your friend I can understand's reaction. There is a difference between a high street retailer honouring a single purchase for he sake of keeping a genuine customer happy, and then correcting the error; and an online company honouring probably many thousands of such sales to customers many of whom are clearly well aware of the what's going on. just my two penn'orth

I think you find that they probably had many thousands ordered. I myself received two texts about it and it was all over the internet on message boards. A friend of mine orderd 6.
Also was cancelled.


I think you may have underestimated the number of orders placed on for the Samsung televsion. I'm aware of orders for 18 televsions placed by myself and friends.

As expected we all received emails stating that they couldn't fullfil our orders.


The key is the wording of the confirmation e-mail. If it is an order acknowledgement, OK an offer has been made and the seller can reject the offer. If it is order ACEPTANCE then a contract exists and the seller is bound by contract to supply the goods at the contract price.

I purchased a CD from, but it didn't arrive. They were utterly uninterested, blaming both a subcontractor and delivery company. Only after a lot of aggravation did I receive what I had ordered. I will never deal with them again, and advise others not to.

If you made a mistake and gave a retailer payment of £799.77 instead of £79.99 would you allow them to keep it and put the error down to your missfortune...? I think not!!!!
No I am not a retailer just understand that everyone makes kistakes now and again.

As is based in Jersey UK law does not apply to it. I was in dispute with them over a faulty laptop, offered a partial refund based on the use I had had out of it which I thought was too low. However, to go to the Small Claims Court in Jersey, I would have had to hire a local lawyer which would not have been cost effective so I decided to accept their offer. Had it been a UK based retailer I would have been able to go court myself

The same thing happened to me about 3 years ago on I found a stunning laptop that should have retailed at around £1000 but was mispriced at £9.88.

So I bought one, and my order was confirmed:

'Your order for Sony Vaio VGN-TX5MN/W Notebook / Laptop / Intel Core Solo 1.20Ghz / 1024MB RAM / 80Gb / DVD+-RW / Windows Vista Business has been received.

Thank you for ordering from KingClay via PlayTrade. Please check the following order information:

Order Reference(s): XXXX
Item: Sony Vaio VGN-TX5MN/W Notebook / Laptop / Intel Core Solo 1.20Ghz / 1024MB RAM / 80Gb / DVD+-RW / Windows Vista Business
Price: GBP 9.88
Quantity: 1
Delivery Cost: Free
Payment: Credit Card'

And then, the next day I got this:

'Reason for Refund : Wrong Price
Seller Note : Item wrongly priced. Please accept my sincere apologies'

I was gutted but it did seem to good to be true. Nothing you can do though unfortunately.

Hope my story helps someone out there,

This does happen on the high street too - I took some incorrectly priced clothes to the counter and the manager refused to sell them to me, even though the incorrect price label was actually their proper price tag.

Seems rather harsh to describe as a rubbish retaIler just because of his one incident. It was such a low price that anyone ought to have suspected it was a mistake - which anyone can make. Bad luck for the prospective purchaser but just one of those things I'm afraid.

it was so obvious it was a mistake,you should have known better.

This happened to me 30 years ago. I saw a vinyl LP in a shop window for sale at £1.99. When I went inside to buy it I was told it was actually £11.99 due to a mistake on their part. They would not sell it at the lower price. I felt this was wrong and asked the local Trading Standards office. They said the shop was right and didn't have to sell it at the lower price but if I returned the next day and they hadn't rectified their mistake then they would HAVE to sell it to me at the lower price.

"Everything seemed above board"


A 40" TV for £79:99 .... and everything seemed above board?!

Pathetic statement - it was clearly an error - so I'm glad didn't honour it.

There is no story here ...

As you often say "if it looks too good to be true, it probably is"! and as your research found, it is an offer to sell, not a binding contract.
I have never had a problem with and would recommend them as one of the best online retailers, if not the best. I have shopped with them for over 5 years.

I bought a sandberg wireless key board from PLAY.COM and it does not work. I have contacted PLAY,COM a number of times but they tell me have no tecnical support contact the the makers.I contacted them a number of times but have had no reply. There was no system requirment on the advert so one assumed it worked on all systems. I operate VISTA.I am now left with a keyboard that does not work. I will just put in my glass case to remind me not to buy from PLAY.COM again

Cathy you have every right to TV at 79.99 as Play.coms cofirmation is a legally binding contract. Do not accept any excuses from them. It may be difficult but no doubt result will be worth it. Let me know you result cheers Ron 

everytime this has happened to me in a shop they have honoured the price,
supermarkets like Morrisons and Sainsburys are best.

Wilco/wilkinsons have done so too

In this case did the retailer debit any form of payment card. If so an offer had been made accepted by the purchaser and payment made and as such a contract should then be in place. If the purchasers monthly credit card or bank statement shows a credit against the original debit then a contract must have been in place. The confirmation e-mail received by the purchaser would confirm that the retailer had the goods in stock at the time.

P R Stone

As one who fights his corner hard for consumer rights when dealt badly by retailers, in this case to be honest I think the retailer has done nothing wrong. The TV was obviously mispriced, even in the midst of a sale, and a £720 'hit' for the retailer is quite a lot to take on for an £800 TV! I disagree and think this would have happened in exactly the same way in the high street, and personally have had no trouble with in the past.

I am not sure you should be rubbishing retailers (of which I am not one) for exercising their ordinary rights under contract law. You will know that there has to be an offer and an acceptance agreed by both sides for the contract to become enforceable. Where the intending purchaser makes an offer based on a mistaken or incorrect price, the seller is not obliged to accept it. Viz. the departmental store window case where the fur hat price became associated with the fur coat by mistake. The Court agreed that the shop was not obliged to sell the coat at the hat price. This does not make a retailer rubbish. Neither do I believe you are correct in saying that 'this wouldn’t have happened on the high street'. Retailers are advised that when an incorrect price occurs they are perfectly entitled to withdraw the item from sale. What they cannot do is offer to sell it at a higher price; this is clearly an offence.


I saw the same TV on offer at the bargain basement price of £79.99 at Everything was fine just like you until I received the same email as above from saying there had been an error and order was cancelled.

I did not give up there after 5 emails and 3 phone calls finally agreed to honour the £79.99 price and the TV was delivered 3 days later.

The moral of the story is if your pursue your go, quote some legal rights you may end up saving over £700.

One happy person, one less happy

This is really silly, but turned into a point of principle.
I saw a stainless steel cutlery drainer in Ikea (loads of them stacked up in a pyramid with a big price card on) at £2.48 and bought it. When I got home I discovered I'd been charged £4.98 (about, can't remember exact figure now) . I rang the store expecting a straight credit on my debit card and a bit of an apology. Oh no! A VERY sniffy customer sevices lady told me I'd been mistaken about the price and they had charged me the correct amount - and it was "only a couple of quid anyway!"
I was sure I was right so I went back to the same Ikea the day after (thus wiping out the potential refund in petrol used, but we do these things sometimes) and took a digital photo of the price sticker on the display. I took it to customer services with my receipt. They still ewouldn't have it. The lady marched me all the way through the store and then took the sticker off the display and said "Oh, that's wrong!" I never did get my refund. But they've lost cos never shopped at Ikea since, and I used to virtually live in there at one time.

Having read this, I find it hard to believe that anybody writing for Moneywise is not aware that, if an item is wrongly priced - even in a normal shop, that price is merely an invitation to treat. The customer is being advised that the item is for sale. The customer then makes an offer. The seller can accept the offer or refuse it, whatever price is avertised. Only when the price is agreed and there is a treaty between both parties can the contract be made.

This kind of ignorance serves only to reduce the readers' confidence in the financial advice given by Moneywise!

I used to work at TK Maxx where tag-switching was a frequent problem. A person would take 3 items into the changing rooms and try to switch tags around in the hopes they could get their item cheaper.

When an incorrectly priced item was found, customers were always told that they must pay the full price or leave it.

Many customers were also under the belief that the retailer was obliged to honour the price but this is not the case.

I too saw the TV advertised at £79.99 on and as the sale was on thought it was ligitimate and went ahead and ordered it. My order was confirmed and payment went through only to recieve an exact same email as recieved by your colleague the following morning. \i was soooo disappointed!!!!!!!

I came across a wrongly priced item at a Past Times shop. It was not a big reduction but they would not sell it to me at that price saying it was a mistake.

Hello Cathy,
I have been denied the opportuniiyu to buy a children's ski jacket in TKMaxx (Croydon), as the price on the ticket was, allegedly, incorrect (£5.99, instead of £15.99).
Also, the customer was not able to buy a game (from Blockbuster), because of the, again, allegedly incorrect price.
Cheers, Mia

I think with such a large difference you are being cruel expecting the discount. If it was you who had made the mistake i think you would be thinking differently.
As an ex-shop keeper this sort of thing hurts!

This happened to me this october. Purchased the same tv for 79.99, only to get an email to say my order had been cancelled the next morning. There seems to be no way round this as their terms and conditions say they have no obligation to sell it to you if they wrongly price something, and yes I am sure that high street rights are far better for wrongly priced items. I would imagine if you had teh time and the legal knouse, you could fight this and probably win.

I fear that many people are forgetting what this article is about- It is about the customer care that Internet services can hide away from ahivng to provide. Sending a stock sorry email out, by copy and pasting away there errors-and if the customer has any enquiries or is confused from this minamal email reply-that they then have to jump through hoops of different communications to be ignored until they are a large enough pain in the side.

On a high street-mangers enjoy solving customers issues there and then.
After reading this I have remembered the joys of personal treatment that you expect from your high street. I look forward to hearing what are doing to correct there shocking customer service! and I hope they realise that repeat business, and good press is more valuable than ignored emails and phone calls.

I bought some speakers for my daughters iPhone in John Lewis last week. They are priced on the internet and the till at £99.95 but the shelf price was £79.95. They honoured the shelf price and sold them to me for the lower price with no argument whatsoever.

Good grief!

Please stop bleeting on saying, "I thought the TV really was £79:99"

Of course you didn't!!

If you did then I suggest you get your bumps felt as you are clearly deranged ha ha ha ha ha ha - pathetic! are to congratulated for refusing to give in to plain greed!

I do have experience of honouring a mistake they made on their website when I got a brand new boxset worth about £30-£40 for £7.99. I'm sure in this case there were not many orders for the boxset and I was impressed that they honoured the order. I don't blame them for trying to protect their business when thousands of people try to place orders based on a typo.

Thanks for all your comments - some constructive, some not so much. My blog aimed to show what customer service is all about. Why send out a generic email confirming purchase? Why not have the nous to check all your products are labelled correctly?This is where fell down.

Thankfully, Moneywise has come to the rescue again by saving our dear old colleague Rob. HAS agreed to send him the television, purely because he acted NOT out of greed and only ordered ONE. He simply spied a good bargain and capitalised on it. And really, what's so pathetic about that?