Just as Californians are getting ready for holiday discount online shopping, popular bargain retailer Overstock fights allegations of false advertising. Did the company really misrepresent prices, or is it just a lot of pre-holiday retail hype?
Bargain Shopping District Attorneys Want to Know: What is the “Best Deal?”
Filing civil complaints against Overstock.com, seven California district attorneys from the northern portion of the state allege false advertising. ABC 30 reveals that the advocates are frowning on statements such as “best deal” or “unbeatable prices,” when they actually claim that Overstock posted inflated price comparisons.
Misrepresenting prices of competitors in this manner — the lawmen believe — is worth $15 million in fines as well as an unnamed sum for restitution payments. The response that Overstock offers is curious; rather than issuing a categorical denial, the discount online shopping locale states: “No one is perfect. We do deny the allegations and we deny the interpretations. We do not deserve this, especially the timing of it.”
Remember the 2009 Wal-Mart eMachine Outrage?
GadgeTell recounts the 2009 Wal-Mart fiasco that took place in another California town after Thanksgiving. Bargain shopping Black Friday customers camped out in front of the store to get their hands on one of 37 eMachine laptops at an advertised price of only $198. When the doors finally opened, customers were outraged to find out that the deals were sold earlier, in spite of printed ads.
Did the retailer engage in false advertising by offering attractive deals for sale at a predefined sales time, only to break its own rule and offer the items at a pre-sale? While some consumers would refer to this type of business practice as false advertising, it is possible that store managers merely created what could be charitably presented as an oversight. Of course, in the heat of the bargain-shopping season, the competitive nature of the ads lends itself to charges that retailers are misrepresenting prices or engaging in false advertising.
Overcharged? What Should a Bargain Shopping Consumer Know?
While it will be interesting to see how the lawsuits asserting Overstock’s misrepresenting prices will be decided, the consumer intending to do some discount online shopping or even in-person buying must know his rights. For example, L.A. County’s Department of Consumer Affairs advises customers to do their own legwork and verify the best deals in town.
In the case of an overcharge, it is crucial to immediately make this fact known to the sales clerk. If this interaction does not resolve the problem, the consumer must attempt to discuss the matter with a manager. If this step fails to bring about a resolution, the Department of Consumer Affairs wants to hear from you.
ABC 30: “Overstock.com accused of false advertising”
GadgeTell: “Walmart’s Black Friday deception draws flood of complaints”
L.A. County Department of Consumer Affairs: “False Advertising”