When an amazing deal turns out to be just a pricing error, what are your rights? Does a trader have to honour an advertised price, even if it is clearly a mistake? The quick answer is well, no, IF the trader can prove it’s a genuine mistake.
And here’s why:
- Consumers have the right to clear and accurate information on the prices of goods and services so that you can compare prices and make informed choices. When the trader advertises a product/service for sale, the consumer is given “an invitation to treat”, which means that the consumer is invited to make an offer to buy. Once an offer is accepted, and consequently a binding contract is formed, the consumer can insist that the trader sells the goods/services for the price they were advertised at. However, if there is a genuine mistake on the part of the trader to display the correct price, the trader can claim that there is a defect in consent and the contract may be set aside, especially if the consumer should reasonably have known that the price displayed was the result of an error. This may well be an obvious, rare mistake, quickly acknowledged and rectified and, therefore, the consumer may not be entitled to benefit from the error. On the other hand, if the consumer has ordered in good faith, unaware of any error, he/she could look for arrangements, particularly may seek to enforce performance of the contract or even compensation (e.g. damages) when the actual loss can be accredited.
- Under the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (2005/29/EC), it is considered a misleading action to provide false or untruthful information that deceives or is likely to deceive the average consumer. It needs to be noted however that even in court, the judge would have to assess it on a case-by-case basis (taking into account all the relevant facts) in order to find a fair balance between giving relief and protecting commercial interests of the mistaken contracting party, taking into account the typical reaction of the average consumer in a given case, on the one hand, and the mistake/defect in consent on the other.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) in Ireland has statutory powers of enforcement and can take action against Irish-based businesses for breaches of consumer law, including misleading pricing. If consumers notice any breaches or examples of unfair or misleading practices by businesses, they can report the issue to the CCPC.