Lowest-Price Guarantees Are Usually A Crock

Most retailers like to boast that their prices are "unbeatable" -- often going so far as to provide a guarantee that you won't find cheaper prices anywhere. But how often is this actually the case? If last night's expose on The Checkout is anything to go by; hardly ever.

The Checkout is an ABC consumer affairs program fronted by The Chaser's Julian Morrow and Craig Reucassel (read our interview with Morrow about the show here.) In last night's episode, the show put lowest-price guarantees to the test at a range of retail stores. Unsurprisingly, none of them delivered on their promise when put under the slightest amount of scrutiny:

[We] found that despite the guarantees, finding a lower price with competitors was easy. "Lowest-price guarantee" doesn't necessarily mean you're getting the lowest price. So while businesses aren't meant to be misleading or create a false impression, you can't always trust them.

One example flagged by the show was a Bosch lithium-ion garden saw which cost $149 at Bunnings Warehouse compared to $99 at Mitre 10: that's 50 per cent more expensive. Similar price discrepancies were found at Big W, Office Works, Harvey Norman and Dan Muprhy's across a range of different products.

As the show noted, most of the above stores claim to employ teams of "passionate" price-checkers who ensure prices are consistently low. These days, anyone with an internet connection can quickly price-check products, so it seems highly unlikely that these pricing anomalies slipped through the net unnoticed.

Something else to watch out for are product exclusivity deals: some brands are only available from one Australian retailer, yet are still prominently advertised with a price-matching guarantee. This is an empty promise, as you can't actually buy the product anywhere else. Tch.

The Checkout also discovered occasions where stores refused to honour a price guarantee due to a range of weaselly excuses, ranging from a "restocking policy" issue to claiming the rival store was charging below cost.

These findings are nothing new of course: a recent CHOICE investigation discovered that a whopping 85 per cent of electronics retailers failed to follow Australian consumer law; usually due to limited or no understanding.

Thankfully, the law does offer certain protections against dodgy advertising regardless of what retailing staff tell you. For example, any price-match exclusions needs to be present in all advertisements; if not you can successfully argue that it doesn't apply.

Naturally, if you find a cheaper price somewhere else, make sure you have the store details and preferably a contact number to streamline the process. You can find more about your rights by checking out our guide.

See also: Remember Your Consumer Rights When Dealing With Franchises | Would You Pay Shops For The Privilege Of Browsing?

[Via The Checkout]


    Common one I get from EB Games is that they will only price match if the other store has it in stock - is that legal?

    Personally if I can get it cheaper at the other store - I go to the other store - I'm not rewarding them with my custom for ripping everyone else off. But I'd love to know if we can push them to enforce it even when they're the only ones left with stock?

    Oh and secondary question - is there a geographical limit on price matching? It's the other line they pull. Sorry that store isn't in this centre so we don't price match against them.

      I guess it all comes down to what their terms and conditions say. If all they say is, "We'll match any price", then they have to match any price without exclusions. But they'll rarely say that, for obvious reasons.

      I get that from Harvey Norman also. I usually insist on them matching the price, but only if I know the item is momentarily out of stock and will be back next week. They probably won't match if the item is end of life or so out of stock it won't be back in for ages, but I can sorta understand that.

      The geographical distance thing is a little more difficult to say. One HN guy told me I could price match only if the store (in this case, an online store located in Sydney) had a legit retail store (and not just a warehouse), while another one told me that they wouldn't price match because it was too far away (Melbourne, 2 hours drive).

      In the end I got the price I wanted by telling them I could drive a total of 4 hours, fill up my tank, buy lunch and STILL be under the price HN were offering. A quick trip out the back to "speak" to the manager and I walked away with the item. But it's best to ask someone like the ACCC

      A good bit of advice though, become friends with employees of the store. Not just go in and buy stuff often type friend, but "come over for vodka and Mario Kart while we swear at each other" type friends. You soon find out the ins and outs of the stores and know how much bargaining power you have (e.g. I think TVs are sold under cost, but stuff like coffee makers are WAY over cost and can be talked down. Same with antivirus products)

      Let me ask you this; why should the store honour a price when the other store you want to price match has no stock? Both EB & Bunnings have a policy that they will beat the price on any stocked item with proof.

      As for geographical that really depends on the manager of the store.. When I worked for EB, my boss she was happy to price match any store even if it was Target which is in town a 10 minute drive away, they just had to have stock of it.

        To counter; if I know the other store has stock (and they're geographically close) why wouldn't I just go there to purchase what I'm after? There is no benefit to the customer if the price is matched - it's a con to make you think you're getting something extra from them when really if you're already shopping around that's what you should do.

        Now stores that beat the prices by 10% will of course ensure the benefit is there and I could understand taking a small amount of time to try and get it - especially on more expensive items.

          Well there is if you have an EB World membership :)

    I'd happily try and get a price matched but if they give me even the slightest shit, I'll simply walk out, leave a fully trolley at the checkout, and go to the other place. F&#K 'EM I say!

    I found a monitor I wanted to buy online from PC Case gear and it was a friday so I thought I would search officeworks to see if they stocked it for around the same price. Turns out is was much higher (Nearly $70 More).

    I decided I would go in and see if they would price match them for me. I was surprised when she jumped on a computer nearby and search the monitor , got a postage quote and then beat that price by %5.
    First time I have ever price matched was pleasant but If they weren't going to actually beat the price of another brick and mortar store than my business would go to the store that had the lower price in the first place.

    Wouldn't it be 50% more expensive (roughly)? 30% cheaper maybe.

    Lucky the folks at "The Checkout" did all of the heavy-lifting for this article.

    Isn't it a little lazy to watch a show, write a few paragraphs summarising the show, and then posting it here?

      I don't think so. I haven't seen the show, so I'm glad Lifehacker would post an article about things their readers (including me) would be interested. All credit was given, I don't see the problem?

      Not really, it's reviewing the info for a quick read and providing a link off to watch the whole show if you want. No different to writing a summary of a longer article and linking to it really

    In terms of "Price Beat Guarantee" the distinction is the 'D' at the end.
    If it ends with "Guaranteed," it implies you get the lowest price.
    If it ends with "Guarantee," it means the lowest price is available to you if you ask for it.

    Its an important distinction, one that Flight Centre (as mentioned in The Checkout) learnt the hard way from the ACCC.

    Ultimately, the time and effort taken to inform the ACCC and follow it through versus just paying the difference may deter most companies from being caught out...

    Jetstars is crazy stupid, they only beat it if the flight is a similar time (within 2 hours i was quoted back then), thing is they almost never have a flight within 2 hours of a competitor (at least to adelaide), i managed to get it once but didn't find out till afterwards it was because the guy stuffed up the dates the first time round and didnt redo the price check.

    I almost always have issues with First Choice Liquor (Coles). They almost always argue and won't verify the price unless it happens to be in the catalogue at their counter. I basically have to take photos of other shops prices to even get them to consider price matching.

    In one instance in a largish shopping centre where there was a Woolies Liquor (BWS now) only 3 doors down with a cheaper price by about $3 on a case of beer, the lady wouldn't match as it wasn't in the Woolies catalogue she had on hand (ie. it was their regular price). Their one major competitor, a 30 second walk away. I was flabbergasted .. and went back and bought from Woolies, took a photo and showed her on the way back. She didn't give a hoot.

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