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On our main "Consumer Watch" page I post news and notes and commentary to help you get the most for your money, and to keep you alert about things to watch for as you spend your money. Here is an article about a particular issue involving online pricing.

Please also see our "Consumer Alert" page for breaking news including product recalls.

Have you got something we should watch? Go to our "Contact Us" page and send me an email. Thanks for watching and good shopping!

DOES IT MAKE SENSE WHEN AN ONLINE PRICE IS MORE THAN THE TAGGED PRICE?

Update May 20, 2016  A consumer contacted me today with a question and a complaint. The consumer wanted to know if it was legal for an online department of a company to charge more for a sweater than the price tag on the sweater? The complaint was obvious: why should a consumer pay more for a sweater bought online when the price in the brick and mortar store is less?

Receipt from Saks.com showing price of $148
webassets/IMG_20160520_205034saksreceipt.jpg
for sweater bought online.

At issue is a sweater bought from Saks Fifth Avenue's website www.Saks.com and the photo above shows the receipt for the purchase. Look at the third item -- that's the sweater with the online price of $148.

But now take a look at the photo below. The photo below shows the actual price tag that was attached to the sweater bought from Saks.com and the price tag shows $128 which is $20 less than the online price.

 

Actual price tag of $128 shows on the sweater
webassets/IMG_20160520_204847sakspricetag.jpg
bought from Saks.com at a price of $148.

I thought online prices are supposed to be lower than brick and mortar prices? I thought the point of buying things online was to save time and money? I didn't think a company would charge more for an item online? I also didn't think this was the right thing to do. I also wonder if it's the legal thing to do? I know, for example, that it is a violation of law for supermarkets to ring up at the cash register a price that is higher than the price shown on store shelves or the price shown on a package. Can the online branch of a department store charge more than the tagged price on an item?

There is a regulation published online by the California Department of Consumer Affairs (the consumer is a California resident) that in my opinion applies to this situation. The law against overcharging is identified as AB 1721 and here's how the state's website summarizes the law:

Prohibits any person or store from charging an amount greater than the lowest price posted for a product, even if there is an expiration date posted for that product. This law clarifies that expired sale signs that are not removed must be honored by the merchant. It also clarifies the language of the law to cover scanner overcharges.

It seems to me the key words here are in the first part of the summary: "prohibits any person or store from charging an amount greater than the lowest price posted for a product" and clearly the price tag on the garment is a lower price than what Saks.com was charging.

Of course you want to know if the consumer contacted the service department of the website first -- and of course the consumer did that. What was the consumer told? According to the consumer, the customer service representative said "but you agreed to the online price" and the customer service representative said there was nothing that could be done.

I think that's not only bad customer service, I think it also violates the spirit if not the letter of the law. It also sends a bad message about how this major, national retailer conducts its business and treats its customers.

In case there is any doubt, this is how the California Department of Consumer Affairs shows the actual law, including the fine for violating it, on its website:

12024.2. (a) It is unlawful for any person, at the time of sale of a commodity, to do any of the following:

(1) Charge an amount greater than the price, or to compute an amount greater than a true extension of a price per unit, that is then advertised, posted, marked, displayed, or quoted for that commodity.

(2) Charge an amount greater than the lowest price posted on the commodity itself or on a shelf tag that corresponds to the commodity, notwithstanding any limitation of the time period for which the posted price is in effect.

(b) A violation of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars ($25) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not exceeding one year, or by both, if the violation is willful or grossly negligent, or when the overcharge is more than one dollar ($1).

(c) A violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars ($100) when the overcharge is one dollar ($1) or less.

It seems to me this consumer is owed more than an apology and it seems to me all consumers and the State of California are owed an explanation from Saks Fifth Avenue and its website operation.

Here on our new media website "Moneyman" Alan Mendelson who is the original Best Deals TV Show reporter on KCAL9 and consumer advocate, shows you the best deals on TV, and the best buys, bargains and where savvy shoppers go to save, and how to get the most for "your money" with the best of Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura County, Riverside County and San Bernardino County.  Our Best Buys TV Show has the best TV deals and is the only regularly scheduled weekly best deals TV show in Southern California.  We show you the best buys and best deals on TV and more deals and bargains on www.alanbestbuys.com and www.bestbuystvshow.com and watch for our Las Vegas TV show Vegas Best Buys.  Some of the content can come from paid advertising and from our advertiser paid TV infomercial programs.  The Best Buys TV Show is a paid infomercial program which may also include news and information which is not sponsored or paid for by advertisers.  AlanBestBuys.com has the highest ranking among competitive sites in Southern California according to the independent website ranking companies Alexa.com and Quantcast.com and our Best Buys TV Show is the most watched shopping and consumer information show in Southern California.

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