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This week many businesses which trade through Amazon discovered, to their horror, that they were selling products for 1p as a result of an error in automated pricing software.
It has been reported that many of these businesses are nursing heavy losses and could even face closure in the new year.
How can businesses minimize their risks of this happening? Here’s Comet’s top five tips for the legal teams that advise online traders:
Avoid saying things on a website such as ‘the goods offered for sale on this site’. In fact, avoid the toxic term ‘offer’ at all if you can, not only in the terms and conditions but also elsewhere.
A retailer should ensure that any products on its site are invitations to treat, eg: ‘for sale: widgets at £10 each’, and not: ‘for sale: 100 widgets at £10 each. The first 100 replies with payment will secure a widget’.
In other words, the site should invite an offer from the customer.
Make sure that the terms and conditions are clear about the process.
Here’s an example of terms and conditions which spell out when the contract becomes legally binding and which give the retailer a bit of ‘wriggle room’ if its systems start randomly offering £500 products for 500 pence each:
The order acknowledgement does not mean that your order has been accepted by us. We may send you an email to say that we do not accept your order. This is typically for the following reasons: … there has been an error by us on the pricing or description of the goods. We will only accept your order when we send you an email that confirms this. At this point, a legally binding contract will be in place between you and us and at this point we will despatch the goods to you.
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