Selling online can be a complicated process and the law is not as precise as it could be in this matter. If you have an online shop and you advertise something for the wrong price; what happens when a customer buys it. Can they buy it at the wrong price or can you refuse to sell it? Who is in the right and who is in the wrong?

Let’s say that you’ve placed a product on your eCommerce website for £99 – but you’ve mistyped the price and are offering it for just £9 (missing out that first vital digit)

Your customers think that all of their Christmases have come at once and add a few to their shopping basket, checkout, pay and you receive their order request. What do you do? What can you do?

Do you have to sell them to your customer at the reduced price? After all they’ve paid for the item at the lower price, so surely payment means that they have every right to receive the product at this discounted price?

Or can you refuse to ship the product and give them their money back, saying that you made a mistake and it should have only been sold at the higher price?

The Letter of the Law

The law is very clear in this case if you are a normal retail shop. At the checkout the seller can refuse to accept the offer of £9 for the product. Until a sale is made, a customer is effectively only making an offer to purchase a product for the price they are willing to pay. The seller can either accept this offer or reject it. If the price is right then the seller will accept it. In this case as the product is priced incorrectly, they can choose to not accept the offer and thus not lose any money in the sale.

However, online is rather different. The seller will only know that a customer is making an offer AFTER the customer has already paid online. So does the seller have to accept this offer? Has the customer won and got a great product for a fraction of it’s intended price?

It’s down to your Terms and Conditions

Your terms and conditions are your only protection.

You need to make it clear that by placing an order (and making a payment) your customer is making an offer to purchase from you and that the offer will only be binding if you, the seller, accepts the order. If you receive an order and the price is wrong, you can choose not to accept the order and refund in full any monies paid. You need to make crystal clear that by taking money from your customer, you are not accepting their order.

Our advice here is to always make sure that you have watertight terms and conditions for your eCommerce website. Do not try to do these yourself or scrimp on producing them. Use a specialist who can understand your online business and make sure that your terms and conditions cater for all possible situations including mistakes by you.