What Happens When Items Are Priced Wrong In A Shop?

Businesses and service providers are required to ensure that prices displayed are accurate and not misleading. In other words, the price displayed must be the same as the price charged at the till. If a business incorrectly labels products with wrong price -lower or cheaper than the price charged at the till- should the shop honour the discount for customers who took up the offer?


Next mistakenly advertised a pair of sofas worth £1,198 on its website for just £98 and customers said they had paid £98. Next refused to honour the deals by relying on its terms and conditions which allows Next to cancel orders before they are dispatched for delivery. But, Marks & Spencer adopted more consumer friendly behaviour when the retailer mistakenly sold a Marks & Spencer 50 inch 3D plasma screen TV for just £199 instead of £1,099. After a surge in orders, the retailer cancelled the reduced orders and offered customers a £25 goodwill voucher. These two real cases show that it is not a general rule to honour pricing mistake when a business incorrectly labels something with the wrong price.



Buying in store

Your legal rights in a shop will depend on whether you’ve paid for the item yet or not.


If you haven’t bought it yet and if an item is priced incorrectly such as lower than normal price, retailers are under no obligation to honour it, under the Sale of Goods Act. Put simply, you do not have an automatic right to buy the goods at the lower price. But, you could still try asking the seller to honour the price.


If you already bought it and if you realise you’ve paid more for an item than it was advertised for at the time, ask for the shop to refund the difference between what you paid and what was advertised. It will be good for you to have any evidence of the mistake, if you’ve got a photo of the wrong price tag to claim the differences.


If you paid at the reduced costs at the till, the retailer has no legal right to claw back any money if it later realises there has been a pricing error since the purchase is considered a legally binding contract between the retailer and the customer. However, if an item has been very heavily discounted and then it could be obvious that the retailer had no intention to sell this item at that price. For example, if the retailer sold the product for £34.99, but if it normally cost £1,599.99, then the company could claim that the consumer must have been aware this was a mistake.


Buying online

For online shopping, the legally binding contract is complete when a retailer accepts an order.  It is important to understand when an order constitutes a legally binding contract as once there is a contract, a retailer generally has no right to claw back any money. If you don’t have any contract a retailer can cancel your order on the ground of the wrong price. But, every retailers have their own policies to determine the time of the acceptance of an order. The acceptance happens at the point of order or acceptance of an order by email or once it has delivered the goods. Therefore, you have to carefully check the retailer’s terms and conditions and emails. As a result, your legal rights when shopping online depend on whether you have a contract with the retailer or not.

AUTHOR – Inayet Aydeniz Baytas