Technology

Case study: online price error, a mixed victory

Does the price displayed in the store and the price on the cash register not match? The merchant must then respect the displayed price or, if the item is worth less than $ 10, return it to you for free. But what if a merchant posts the wrong price on their website? The answer does not seem as clear as one would like.

In July 2019, Isabelle Tardif-Audy saw on the Magasin Latulippe website a kayak for sale at a low price of $ 90. Seize the opportunity and immediately place the order. This is when the trader notices the pricing error, which should have been … $ 1,590. Cancel the order and try to find an amicable solution by offering the customer to sell the kayak at cost, that is, the price at which the store buys it. She refuses and claims $ 2,330 in damages.

Two years later, in July 2021, the Court ruled in favor of the consumer and ordered the merchant to pay her $ 810.52, that is, the cost price at which the merchant was ready to transfer the kayak to her ($ 795 + taxes), less the sum of $ 103.53 ($ 90 + taxes) that the complainant had agreed to pay.

A law that is not entirely clear

Judge Christian Brunelle stresses, however, that “the question in dispute does not have a clear answer.” In other words, the law is not clear in this situation. This explains why in recent years, sentences in similar cases have sometimes been tilted in favor of the trader, sometimes in favor of the consumer.

In this case, several elements were raised by the defense, such as the excusability of the price error that would allow breaking the sale contract or the presence of conditions of use that indicate that the merchant would have the right to cancel the contract. transaction in case of price error.

First, the defense exposed the excusability of the error. The law establishes that in case of error, the consent to buy or sell is not valid, unless the error is qualified as “inexcusable”. This term is at the discretion of the judge. In this case, the judge considered that the Latulippe store being a “professional seller”, this price error was inexcusable. Although the situation is similar to Roy v. Sonxplus Group Inc. In this case dating back to 2018, the judge found a pricing error made by a sales representative excusable.

Then the terms of the Latulippe store website, noted at the bottom of the home page, state that the merchant reserves the right to cancel an order if there is a pricing error. This location is not sufficiently visible in the eyes of Judge Brunelle, who rejected this defense, despite contrary findings issued in 2007 by the Supreme Court of Canada in a case between the Union des consommateurs and the hardware company Dell. In this price error case, the judge found that a hyperlink at the bottom of the page was sufficiently visible and leaned towards the merchant.

That said, Judge Brunelle relies on Article 54.4, adopted a few months after this case, which sets a higher threshold of visibility than Dell’s decision to reject this defense.

So in the end, even if the pricing error wasn’t malicious, the Latulippe store didn’t come out unscathed.

In situations like these, where the law is not clear, it becomes a matter of interpretation. As a consumer, take the time to read the website’s terms for pricing errors, and be aware that if it sounds too good to be true, the deal may not go through. If this happens to you, you have the right to put the merchant in default and claim compensation. The Tardif-Audy v. Magasin Latulippe could set a precedent in your endeavors, but … it is far from being won in advance!

To view the ruling, visit the websiteizens.soquij.qc.ca.

>> Also read: Small Claims Court – What to Know and How to Prepare

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