Online retail websites are a necessity these days. In fact, more people shop online now than ever. However, while they help to boost business and sales, websites can also be difficult to upkeep and maintain. If you operate a business website that sells goods online, you’re responsible for several different things, including providing accurate advertising to your consumers, which includes price tags and stocking information.
It goes without saying that purposefully and deceptively advertising a price incorrectly or an item as "in stock" when it knowingly is not are very poor business practices. Of course, mistakes happen, but can you be legally liable if your website contains incorrect pricing or stocking information? Are you putting yourself at risk of fraud or deceptive business practices?
There are a few things you should know about the rights of a consumer in such circumstances and situations in which your business may be liable.
Customer Complaints With State Consumer Protection Agencies
State consumer protection agencies, as the name suggests, protect consumers from businesses that may be advertising fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive information on their website. Such information would include incorrect prices and knowingly advertising a product as in stock when it isn’t.
In many cases, consumer protection laws vary from state to state, but if a consumer feels they’ve been misled by, say, an incorrect price tag on a website, they do have the option to complain to state authorities. Typically speaking, for a consumer to win such a case, they would have to prove that the business knowingly mispriced an item with the intention of deceiving its customers.
Better Business Bureau Complaints
Consumers who may be upset by faulty price tags or incorrect stocking notices also can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. If this does occur, businesses in question usually have the opportunity to respond to such complaints. A response would usually involve proving that any false advertising was a genuine mistake and rectifying the situation with the customer.
Online Purchase Refunds
Generally speaking, if you advertise a price on your website and then sell consumers goods at that price, you may have to accept payment of the price that was advertised. There is the option to try for a complete cancellation of an online deal, but if you have any consumers that paid that price, they would be entitled to a full refund.
What About Out Of Stock Items?
Of course, it would be negligent and deceptive to advertise items as in stock when, in fact, they are not. If a business were to take payment from a consumer knowing that an item was not in stock and never intended to restock that item, they would certainly be liable for fraud. However, it’s all too common, particularly for businesses with high sales volumes, for items to genuinely go out of stock once a purchase has already been made. In this scenario, your best defense is a good offense. Ensure you have a clause in your terms and conditions that states you cannot guarantee the availability of a particular item.
Do you need help covering all your bases? Emerald Law can help counsel you in the best ways to write a terms and conditions policy so you never find yourself in legal hot water.