Ask LH: Do Stores Have To Match Their Online Pricing?

Ask LH: Do Stores Have To Match Their Online Pricing?

Hey Lifehacker, Recently I searched for an item online and saw it at a great price. But when I went to the local physical branch, it wasn’t available at that price — it was much more expensive. If this happens, can I demand that the retailer matches the price quoted online? Thanks, Savvy Shopper

Shopping picture from Shutterstock

Dear SS,

In Australia, there’s no specific obligation for retailers to offer the same price in a retail store as they do in an online store. (Indeed, strictly speaking, there’s no obligation for stores to offer the same price in every branch.)

As the ACCC guidelines on pricing make clear, if a business displays multiple prices for an item in a single location, then it is obliged to sell it to you at the lowest price. But that doesn’t extend to it having to match online prices.

Businesses which operate in multiple locations (whether online or offline) are supposed to make it clear to consumers where those prices apply. This is why you’ll often see small print in paper catalogues which list locations not offering particular specials, and why web sites often include disclaimers stating that prices only apply online. To be frank, sometimes these disclaimers aren’t prominent enough for our tastes — and if there isn’t one at all, you might have grounds for complaint. But as a rule of thumb, you can’t automatically assume that prices quoted online will be the same as those in stores. If a site lets you check stock availability, the chances are good the pricing will be matched — but again, check the fine print.

Nor can you assume that online is always cheaper, incidentally. Prices for online supermarkets are generally higher than for in-store purchases, for instance. And when comparing online prices to in-store prices, remember to make sure you’ve included any delivery charges (in both cases).

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Harvey Norman sometimes have cheaper prices online, but won’t match in store. Dymocks on the other hand are generally happy to match their online prices instore.

  • Often the online store will have “Online Only” price featured somewhere on the product description page, which, strangely enough means online only.
    We get people all the time asking about why it is cheaper online, and once this is pointed out to them more often than not they are ok with it. Often we will match it for them to keep a happy customer, depending on the reduction. If they start going off demanding we match the price though they get nothing.

  • This reminds me of Petbarn last month…. when a 14yo pimply minimum wage shop assistant tried to explain economies of scale to me after I asked why their instore prices were 30% more than the online store price. When he eventually stopped talking… I asked him when he expected to start puberty…. the look on his face… priceless. ( with a 30% markup ).

    • Congratulations on being a an ass! Must have made you feel fantastic to take a cheap shot at a kid.

    • Premium Pet Food, $20
      Anti-Flea pet collar, $5

      The fact MichaelGW thinks making himself feel superior to a 14 year old by mocking his appearance is a good thing: Priceless.

      There are some basic human interaction skills money can’t buy -For everything else, there’s MichaelGW

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