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).


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