Should Tesco Be Accountable For Their iPad Pricing Error?

Yesterday, Tesco briefly offered the new iPad, 64GB, 4G version for £49.99 on their website. Sure enough, news of such a great deal spread quickly across social networks, and it looked as if numerous people took them up on this offer. But eventually Tesco brought down the offer and ultimately the Tesco Direct site in order to prevent further losses. Admittedly this still took them quite a while, as even when the offer had been removed from their navigation, the direct link was still accessible, showing some naivety on the company’s part.

An article on the BBC website  appeared soon after, with Tesco claiming that the issue was caused by “an IT error” and that although they love to offer their customers “unbeatable value”, they wouldn’t be honouring purchases made at this price. No apology, no holding up of hands, just a flippant blaming of tools.

But is this really good enough? Surely Tesco have a duty to advertise their products fairly and correctly. It takes a lot to publish an incorrect offer and it must be questioned whether this was done purely to push hype and sales ahead of Friday’s new iPad launch.

If this happened in the financial services industry, the FSA would be all over the company like a rash, forcing them to adhere to an advertised APR or other product benefit. A defence of “it was the computer” doesn’t really wash and quite rightly too. I could stick an offer up on this blog for iPads at £50 or personal loans at 3% APR, just to get traffic in, to collect people’s personal information and to collect payment details. But this wouldn’t be fair of me would it?

Martin Lewis would also usually be attacking a company for false advertising in these situations, but Tesco appear to have wriggled out via small print stating that “If, by mistake, we have under-priced an item, we will not be liable to supply that item to you at the stated price, provided that we notify you before we despatch the item to you.”

Once again, no apology and no admittance that they were in the wrong and unfortunately this doesn’t just happen with Tesco online. I’ve had numerous issues in their store when multi-buy offers haven’t gone through the till correctly and it has always been me who then has to go and queue for a second time over at the kiosk waiting for them to muddle through getting me some sort of refund. Similarly, their bonus Clubcard points offers often don’t work as intended. I once had one for 50-odd bonus points when buying any fresh meat. The voucher didn’t work, according to the cashier, because the bacon I had bought was pre-packed and not fresh. I told her in no uncertain terms that I hoped to god it was fresh!

Don’t get me wrong I know that mistakes can happen. For me, it is all about how companies admit their mistakes and deal with them, and this time round, Tesco, for all their profits and successes were more than sloppy. I’m not one to attack them for being hateful capitalists killing the high street as some people do. I fully support them in being a business and making a profit. I like their online offering for its convenience and its level of customer service. I also don’t necessarily agree with those who jumped on this iPad offer and tried to buy 30 iPads just to sell on, but they had every right to try, just as someone would have every right to buy a job lot of baked beans if Tesco offered them at a knock-down price.

All I’m asking for is for Tesco to honour their deal and follow the lead of other companies who have held their hands up previously, such as Marks & Spencer.

I’m a long time Tesco customer and to me, the flippancy with which they have dealt with this error is unforgivable. Come on Tesco, put your money where your trigger happy web publishing finger is. And if you agree, please do join this group and spread the word amongst your friends and colleagues.

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