PC World Business sued over Net pricing error

In the latest e-commerce pricing row, a customer is suing over the purchase of 2,000 CDs

A PC World Business customer is taking the company to court later this month for failing to honour the purchase of 2,000 CDs that were incorrectly priced on its Web site.

Graeme McKenna has issued proceedings against PC World Business in the small claims court for £2,080 -- the correct price of the CDs he ordered online last month.

The case could set a legal precedent that will help resolve the confusion around Web site pricing errors such as the £7 iPaq PDAs on Amazon.co.uk and the Thai Airways free flights fiasco.

McKenna placed an order for 20 boxes of 100 Maxwell CD-Rs on 18 July, which were priced at £0.89 plus VAT per box, leading to a total order and delivery price of £32.61 for 2,000 CDs.

Although friends he had told about the bargain were told by PC World Business that the price should have been per CD and they would not take the order, McKenna received an order confirmation and his bank card was debited the following morning.

In legal terms this means a contract has been formed and that technically the company has accepted the order and is obliged to honour it.

But when the CDs turned up there were only 20 and not 2,000. PC World Business told McKenna there was a mistake with the unit price on the Web site and offered him a full refund for the return of the goods.

When he queried this after consulting Trading Standards, the company told him that it was obvious the price on the site was wrong and that he had tried to take advantage of it.

An email from the firm's legal team said: "We will not however send him the number of CDs in accordance with the mistake. There is no legal requirement to do so by virtue of the existence of a mistake. There is no way a purchaser could reasonably have supposed that 2000 CDs could be purchased for the sum of £27.75 plus VAT."

PC World Business now has until 16 August to respond to the proceedings.

McKenna said: "At the time I truly believed they were clearing stock or it was end of line stuff. I don't think a judge is going to look favourably upon a company who changes their terms to suit themselves."

Craig Williams, e-commerce manager at PC World Business, was not immediately available for comment.