A Drone Moan - Online Pricing Issues

A Drone Moan - Online Pricing Issues

What gives an online retailer the right to cancel a confirmed purchase?

Woman shopping online

Listen to the audio and read the full details below: 

Buying online has many benefits, convenience being at the top of the list, followed by the right to cancel within a week - for no particular reason  - and return what you bought for a refund. Good to know - they are not doing you a favour, it’s the law - the Electronics Transactions and Communications Act, to be precise.

The only catch to that cooling off period is that legally you must pay the courier to take that unwanted product back, although many retailers pick up that cost as a customer service.

But there are a few risks. Not getting what you paid for being the biggest one, so always pay with a credit card when you shop online so that you can ask your bank to do a chargeback and get your money back that way. 

Another risk is being told by the retailer - after you’ve made your purchase and eagerly awaiting your goods - that sorry, the deal’s off - we'll refund or credit you.

Mostly that happens because of a “pricing error”. The Consumer Protection Act does give retailers an “out” if the price is “an obvious error”.

They are not bound to a price if it’s an obvious error, provided they “take reasonable step to inform consumers and correct the price."

Carl Starke has had reason to have a moan at Takealot about a drone purchase twice in the space of 10 months.

Last September he was annoyed when his purchase of a “discounted” R18,000 drone was unilaterally cancelled two days later - he was given conflicting reasons for this, so I took up the case with Takealot and was told that the wrong price was mistakenly loaded onto the system. 

I pointed out that the price wasn’t “an obvious error”. 

Takealot reconsidered its stance and let Starke have that drone at the advertised price.

But it was a different story with his drone purchase from Takealot this month.

So this time Starke ordered a DJI Mavic 2 Zoom Drone, and then got an email from Takealot, saying: “We’re sorry to let you know that the seller Wiredin cancelled your order for the drone due to a pricing error on their listing. We've therefore credited your Takealot.com account with the value of this item. If you'd rather receive a refund, please let us know and we'll arrange this for you right away.”

He was having none of it, insisting on being given that drone at the price he paid.

But in this case, the price discrepancy was more than R10,000, which can be construed as an obvious error on the part of that third-party seller.

"It is unfortunate that the same error occurred with Mr Clarke in a matter of 10 months, as it really is not the norm,” Takealot told me.

“Takealot and its third-party sellers stock millions of products which are managed via bulk and manual uploads and while we do our best to ensure all product information listed on our platforms are accurate, mistakes do unfortunately happen on a rare occasion.”

As for Carl’s demand that he be given the drone he ordered at the advertised price, Takealot said: “Regrettably, the seller is not able to offer the drone to Mr Clarke at the incorrect price and our the customer service team are in contact with him directly to try and find an alternatively product or offer some form of compensation.”

So there you have it. If it’s an “obvious error” you can’t demand that you pay the “wrong” low price.

The term “obvious error” is a subjective one, obviously, so I’d suggest that online retailers give the benefit of the doubt to customers who place orders based on a price that could feasibly be a “special”, before whipping that wrong-price off the site as quickly as possible.

Also read: High Court outlaws banks’ controversial money grabbing

To contact Wendy, go to her Facebook page and click on the send email tab.

In case you missed any of the past Consumerwatch shows, find them below:

Show's Stories