Buy.com heads for the UK

Controversial discount retailer to face off against UK high street shops, e-commerce sellers

US-based discount retailer Buy.com is set to announce its launch of a UK version of its Web site, putting increased pressure on the UK's e-tailers and high-street electronics shops alike.

Buy.com, which is set to float on Nasdaq with a valuation of up to $2bn (£1.2bn), promises lower prices than the high street, a model followed by online shops such as Amazon.com and the UK's Jungle.com.

Traditional "bricks-and-mortar" shops such as Dixons have been suffering from increased price competition; last week the electronics retail chain suffered its first profits downgrade in two years after warning of increased price deflation.

Buy.com has recently been the target of a consumer ban because of its controversial billing system.

The crux of the matter: Buy.com books orders and bills customers' credit cards even if a product isn't in stock at Ingram Micro, its distribution partner. In some cases, Buy.com can't fill the orders and is forced to credit a customer's account -- days or weeks after the order was placed.

The company plans to offer technology goods to begin with, but will expand into books, CDs and other products.

The UK launch is being handled by eVentures, a joint venture between epartners, backed by News Corp., and Softbank, the Japanese Internet investor. (Softbank owns ZDNet UK publisher Ziff-Davis.)

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