Some businesses have an internet shop (online) and a normal shop (offline). They may wish to charge less for their products on the online shop. Can they do this?
The simple answer is yes they can charge different amounts if you buy online as oppsoed to going to the store.
Often running an online shop will have lower costs and therefore goods can be sold at a lower price. Some businesses even run their online shop as a totally separate business to their offline shop – so the online shop is always cheaper than the offline shop.
A problem can sometimes arise when a consumer looks at the website and assumes the online price applies to the offline store. It is perfectly foreseeable that this could happen – particularly if the online shop acts as an advertisement for the offline shop.
Businesses that sell to consumers have a duty not to engage in any practices that may mislead consumers. As such, if a different price is charged online this should be made clear to consumers. For example, the price could say ‘In store price £10. Online price £7’. This is to avoid a scenario where a consumer sees a price online, travels to the offline shop but finds the item is actually more expensive in the offline shop.
In my experience most large well known businesses generally charge the same price online and offline and if they have online exclusive prices this is normally made clear. The problems more often arise with smaller retailers that started off offline with 1 or 2 shops selling in their local area and then started an online shop selling throughout the country but charging less on the online shop.
Whether something is misleading to the point where it is illegal would have to be looked at on a case by case basis – but I would certainly advise businesses to make it clear that two prices apply depending on how you buy.
For something like a second hand car where its very likely that someone will view the website and then view the car in person, I would expect it to be made very clear that you get a discount in the unlikely event you buy directly from the website without inspecting the car.