Amazon.co.uk blatantly shafts its customers, crying 'pricing error'
There are many people in this world who dislike Amazon.co.uk. These are mostly independent booksellers or other retailers trampled on by the giant of the rainforest, but now there are a new group of rightly outraged customers who have been, well, shafted by Amazon.co.uk
The issue surrounds a specific game, Metal Gear Solid Collection HD for the PS3, which is due out in the UK in February. The game is available for pre-order on Amazon.co.uk, and in December, the pre-order price fell to £20.33. As this was about a tenner less than anywhere else, lots of happy gamers pre-ordered with Amazon.
However, over at ASDA.com, some deal-hunting boffins spotted the Amazon price was so low and ASDA price matched accordingly. Great stuff. The ASDA deal (as detailed on HotUKDeals) started on 25th December and ended on 4th January. Lucky old game buyers could therefore get the cheap game from two reputable online outlets.
However, those who decided to go with Amazon.co.uk had a big old Nasty Surprise waiting for them around the corner. On 5th January, Amazon cancelled all their pre-orders for the game, and the price went up to over £28. Customers were surprised. They were even more surprised to receive the following email:
We are writing to inform you that the price for 'Metal Gear Solid HD - Collection (PS3)' (ASIN: B0058H1YOG) was displayed incorrectly at the time you placed the above referenced order. Despite our best efforts, with the millions of items available on our website, pricing errors can occasionally occur.
In our Pricing and Availability Policy (see http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=1040614), we state that where an item's correct price is higher than our stated price, we will cancel the order and notify you of that cancellation.
Your order has now been cancelled. If you still wish to purchase this item, please place a new order online which will be charged at the correct price, when we dispatch it to you.
Please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused by this error, and rest assured that we will continue to make every effort to maintain the accuracy of all prices on our site.
We look forward to serving you again in the future.
Hmm. So even though Amazon’s Pre-Order Guarantee clearly states that pre-ordered items will be charged at the lowest price, by cancelling the orders they were backing out of that promise? Disgruntled gamers started waving the Sale of Goods Act (handily translated by our friends over at Which!) at Amazon, claiming “If your offer has been accepted (for example, you pay a deposit, or receive a confirmation email), generally you can insist that the retailer sells you the goods for the price they were advertised at… The trader could try to argue that it made a mistake with the pricing which could make the contract void. But it would have to show that the price was so low that you must have known it was not genuine: for example, a new leather jacket with a price tag of £2 on it.”
However, Amazon pooh-poohed these claims stating:
“The Conditions of Use and Sale displayed on our website clearly state that there is no contract between Amazon.co.uk and the customer for an item until Amazon.co.uk accepts the customer order by e-mail, confirming that it has dispatched the item. The order confirmation e-mail is simply an acknowledgement of our receipt of your order and no contract is formed until we send an e-mail confirming that we've dispatched the item.
Until that time, Amazon.co.uk is within its rights not to accept your order and may indicate its non-acceptance by cancelling your order.”
Their Pre-order guarantee also specifically excludes ‘mispricing’ from the guarantee terms. Call me cynical, but a pricing error that is on site for ten days is either not an error, or Amazon.co.uk have some serious quality control issues. It is also remarkably coincidental that the pricing ‘error’ was only ‘noticed’ the day after the ASDA.com offer ended.
Increasingly grumpy Metal Gear Solid HD coveters complained to Amazon.co.uk by email but continued to be fobbed off “I am sorry to say that we are unable to offer this game at £20.33 as this was a pricing error as you are aware… Despite our best efforts, due to the extensive nature of our catalogue, pricing errors can occasionally occur. We endeavour to provide our customers with the best possible customer experience and we realise that on this occasion, as a result of a pricing error, we have not met that standard.” You don't say.
However, news started to trickle through that, perhaps conscious of the huge customer service/PR blunder they were exacerbating, in certain situations, some people were getting a cheaper price on this game. But the randomness and unfairness just made those bereft gamers even angrier
“On various forums, "loyal" customers have had £8 gift vouchers credited to them, or had the £20 order accepted. This is just discrimination against customers, if you're going to do it for one customer, do it for all! horrendous”
The Amazon.co.uk forum curently has clear examples of some people being offered a £3.86 gift voucher (to price match with Zavvi) and others getting the original £20.33 price honoured.
Tips from the forum to get your price matched are:
> use the chat facility rather than email
> say you will order the item again (at £28ish) if you can have the price adjusted to the £20.33 price.
> have your original order number handy and only ask for the £20.33 price to be honoured (ie if you ask for a smaller discount you might get offered that instead)
> quote the forum claiming 'loyal' customers were getting refunded while others weren't and reiterate the fact that some people on the forum have had the price honoured
> if you fail once try, try again. And again.
Given that some people have been granted the £20.33 price, it should follow that ALL customers can also benefit. However, it seems that it is only the ones who shout and stamp their feet who get anywhere.
We thought this was a particularly poor show from Amazon.co.uk and asked them what they thought, but they were all too busy to speak to us. Probably price-checking the site.
We also (coz we’re nice like that) spoke to ASDA to see if they would honour the £20.33 price for poor, disillusioned Amazon customers. We thought this would be a veritable PR coup for ASDA and win them the love of Bitterwalleteers and HotUKDealers everywhere. They also ignored us. We like to think it's because they stink, not because we smell.