Kodak snaps under customer pressure

Kodak has capitulated over a mistake that saw it offer a £329 digital camera online for £100. Lawyers say the company would have lost the pending legal action

Kodak has succumbed to public pressure and bad publicity, and offered to honour a £100 digital camera offer that it mistakenly posted on its site.

The company this morning posted a message on its UK Web site saying that customers who ordered a £329 DX3700 Digital Camera at the advertised price of £100 will now receive it after all, along with the memory card and inkjet paper that were included in the offer.

Kodak said that customers whose orders were affected have been notified directly. "We regret any inconvenience caused by these exceptional circumstances and we appreciate our customers' continued patience in allowing this matter to be resolved."

Only weeks earlier had said it would not honour the offer. "Kodak regrets any inconvenience and disappointment caused to customers," it told shoppers at the time. "Kodak does reserve the right to decline to accept any customer's offer to purchase, prior to payment." In response, irate customers had been preparing to sue the company.

But lawyers said Kodak would have been unlikely to win because the wording of the confirmation email it sent to customers did nothing to protect it in such situations.

"People make typos," said Struan Robertson, a solicitor with law firm Mason's, who is also editor of legal Web site out-law.com. "What Kodak should have done is to use wording that would cover them when this happens."

Companies selling products over the Internet should use wording to the effect that when somebody is clicking on a product and going through the shopping cart system, that they are making an offer to the buyer which if accepted by the vendor will form a contract, said Robertson.

"The legal consensus was that Kodak had formed a contract with the customers at the point when the confirmed acceptance of the customer's order, unless the company said something to the contrary."

In fact, the confirmation email that Kodak sent out to customers appeared to do exactly the reverse, and actually referred to itself as a contract of sale. "If that is the case, then it sounds as if a contract had been formed and Kodak would not have had a leg to stand on," said Robertson. "I'd have been very surprised if Kodak managed to convince the court there was no contract."

Kodak's blunder echoes a mistake made by Argos in 1999 when it offered television sets online for £3.


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