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The UK’s largest online supermarket chains - including Tesco, Wal-Mart’s Asda Group, Sainsbury, and Waitrose – have completed an agreement with the country’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to clarify the pricing of products sold on their websites.

The OFT reportedly received a number of complaints from consumers saying that prices they were being charged were not the same prices that were being advertised on the retailers’ websites. In fact, this wasn’t an accident – customers were being deliberately being charged the price that was listed in-store when the order was assembled, and the online prices were just a guide for consumer purposes.

Under the new agreement, the supermarkets will make this policy clearer, and promised to guarantee that special prices advertised online will hold firm, regardless of the price listed on store shelves. In addition, OFT said that consumers are not contractually bound to accept the order until they have satisfied themselves that they have been charged appropriate prices.
KC's View:
This one caught us by surprise. Maybe it is a British thing, but the idea that a consumer would be charged anything other than the advertised online price, and that the chains would view online prices merely as a “guide,” just seems ludicrous.

Taking that kind of flexibility to the next step, one could argue that prices could be changed between the time an in-store customer picked a product up off the shelf and walked to the checkout lane. Not that retailers wouldn’t mind having that kind of elasticity, but it would do a number on credibility.

Though this seems to happen in the gasoline business, at least to an extent. Both of our cars needed fuel yesterday, so we drove Mrs. Content Guy’s Honda Pilot down to the gas station and paid $2.51 per gallon. Drove it home, and about an hour later brought our Miata to the same station…and paid $2.63 per gallon.

We’ve been checking the papers and the Internet, and haven’t quite figured out what the natural disaster was that caused a 12-cent price increase in 60 minutes. Though, mark our words, at some point we’re all going to see oil company executives blame fuel price increases on the rising cost of fuel – they’ll say that it just costs more to deliver gasoline to all those stations.

But we digress…