Do retailers have to honour the wrong price?


General Finance

On the hunt for a new laptop? You’ll probably kick yourself if you knew a HP laptop mistakenly went on sale for less than £2 earlier this month. The laptop accidentally had its price cut to £1.58 from £2,378.

Of course, the pricing was a mistake and after taking its UK store offline to resolve the error, HP said that it would not honour the sales. But is this the practice for all retailers or do they have to let you buy it at the wrong price? We explore the differences between buying online and in store.

Buying in store

Your rights in store will depend on whether you’ve paid for the item or are still browsing. You might take an item to the till and be told that the price on the tag or the label is a mistake.

For example, the LEGO Star Wars set your child wants is £16 instead of £6. If this is the case, you don’t have the right to buy the item at a lower price – but you could still ask the seller to honour the price you believed it to be or at least meet you in the middle.

Already purchased the item? You can ask the shop to refund the difference if you paid more for it than was advertised at the time. Try to keep any evidence of the mistake if possible, if you’ve got a photo of the wrong price tag, for example.

On the other hand, if the shop sold you an item at a lower price than they meant to you don’t legally have to do anything (unless your conscience tells you otherwise!). The only time they can legally ask you for more money is if you chatted to the sales assistant about the price and they ended up charging you much less. This way, they can prove you knew about the higher price before you bought it.

Buying online

As always, your rights in store are slightly different to your rights when shopping online. When it comes to price glitches, your rights online depend on whether you have a contract with the retailer or not.

You’ll need to check the company’s terms and conditions, but you should have legal rights once you’ve paid for the item or they’ve sent it to you.

If you do have a contract, the company typically can’t cancel your order. So if they realise they’ve sold you something at the wrong price, they’ll only be able to cancel it if it was a genuine mistake on their part, and you should’ve noticed the mistake.

One recent case was with a Marks & Spencer 50 inch 3D plasma screen TV. The TV, which normally retails for £1,099, was mistakenly sold for just £199. After a surge in orders, the retailer cancelled the reduced orders and offered customers a £25 goodwill voucher.

Although the retailer backed down in the end to honour the orders after an online petition was created, they legally didn’t have to.

With no contract in place, a retailer or seller can cancel your order if they realise they’ve told you the wrong price – so always check beforehand.

Shop online often? These are your rights if your parcel turns up damaged or not at all.

< Back to articles