A Valentine’s Day flower purchase online wilted for Steve Biddle of Lower Hutt when he went to Telecom’s e-commerce site Ferrit to do the deal.
Biddle was interested in a bouquet of roses that were advertised on Ferrit for $39, and clicked on the “Buy at retailer” button to conclude the transaction, as Telecom’s site currently doesn’t handle payment processing.
At the retailer’s site, Biddle was dismayed to find that the roses were $55 instead of the $39 advertised on Ferrit. Looking around some more, Biddle discovered that where Ferrit said twelve roses cost $106.50 and a bundle of lilies $59, at the retailer they were $126.50 and $69 respectively.
Computerworld staff checked various items and confirmed the discrepancies Biddle had encountered. More pricing variations were found on Ferrit, usually from smaller retailers whose prices were different — most of the time higher, but in some cases lower — or were subject to shipping or credit card surcharges not spelt out on Ferrit itself.
The Commerce Commis-sion’s director of Fair Trading, Deborah Battell, says the general principle is that the public and potential customers should be fully informed of the total price they have to pay for goods and services. This, Battell says, means the representations about price have to be accurate from the start.
Best practice is, Battell says, to advertise the total price. However, if there are any additional charges on top of the advertised price, these should be disclosed in a “bold and compelling way” to make it easy for potential customers to work out the total price, she says.
If, on the other hand, there is a suggestion that people are being charged more than the advertised price on receipt of goods and services, there is likely to be a problem under the Fair Trading Act, Battell says, especially if there are hidden charges like fuel or delivery costs that are not disclosed adequately.
Peter Wogan, head of marketing at Ferrit, was shown examples of the pricing
discrepancies that Biddle and Computerworld discovered and admits that there have been some price variances. However, Wogan says that it is Ferrit’s absolute intention to synchronise pricing between its site and those of its partners. If there are any differences, Ferrit follows up immediately with the partners in all instances, Wogan says.
In its terms for retailers, Ferrit gets a commitment to make sure that all information provided is “complete, accurate, current and not misleading”, Wogan says. Ferrit also asks retailers to promptly update information to ensure it remains accurate.
Presently, Ferrit doesn’t handle transactions itself, Wogan says. Once it does, the price held in Ferrit’s system, and displayed there, will be what the product is sold for.
He adds that consumers are being told that while Ferrit takes reasonable care to ensure that the information on the site is accurate, it doesn’t promise that it will always be that.
As Computerworld went to press, several pricing discrepancies were still outstanding on the Ferrit site.