When planning to purchase a new computer, HDTV, or stereo system, many people turn to websites of major retailers for the most comprehensive comparison of prices, models, and features. But as The Associated Press reports, once you step inside your local Best Buy, you may not get the same deal advertised on the Best Buy website.
On Thursday, Attorney General of Connecticut Richard Blumenthal revealed plans for a lawsuit against Best Buy Co. Inc., for deception of customers. The lawsuit details discrepancies between deals found at the Best Buy Internet website and “deals” found at in-store kiosks. Blumenthal noted instances of employees of the country’s largest consumer electronics retailer charging higher prices for items by using its look-alike internal website.
According to The Associated Press, Blumenthal commented, “Best Buy gave consumers the worst deal – a bait-and-switch-plus scheme luring consumers into stores with promised online discounts, only to charge higher in-store prices.”
The lawsuit would call for refunds for consumers, in addition to civil penalties, an end to the sales practice, and court costs. At least 20 complaints from Best Buy customers surfaced after a reporter for The Hartford Courant related one man’s experiences at the store. According to the reporter, the Connecticut man found a laptop online at the Best Buy website for $729.99, then visited his local Best Buy store. At the store, an employee seemed to check the price of the laptop on the same Best Buy website and told the customer the price of the laptop was nearly $150 more at $879.99.
Best Buy company officials confirmed the existence of the internal look-alike website that employees have access to in-store. However, Best Buy also noted their policy is to give customers the lowest quoted price, unless specifically labeled as an online-only special.
As reported by The Associated Press, Blumenthal added, “There may be people who are entirely unaware they may have been overcharged.”
The official complaint dates to May 18, leaving Best Buy until June 13 to respond with its own comments to the claims. After this, the lawsuit would be filed in Hartford Superior Court.
In addition, Connecticut’s consumer protection commissioner Jerry Farrell Jr. said the lawsuit serves as a warning that retailers nationwide should reanalyze business practices. The heart of the lawsuit rests upon Best Buy’s promise to match any lower online prices, including prices from the company’s own website. Furthermore, in-store kiosks which supposedly allowed customers to access Best Buy’s public website listed in-store prices, not online prices.
According to LegalNewsline.com, Blumenthal stated, “The company commonly kept two sets of prices – one on its Internet site and an often higher set on its in-store look-alike, available on kiosks… Best Buy broke its promises to give the best price…”
As a result, Best Buy has added posters stating the in-store kiosks report store prices. However, Attorney General Blumenthal feels the changes are unacceptable since the in-store kiosks remain labeled “BestBuy.com,” causing customers to think they are browsing the public Internet website instead of the company’s internal system.
Stephanie Reitz. “Best Buy Accused of Overcharging Buyers.” The Associated Press. URL: (http://www.wral.com/business/story/1442357/).
John O’Brien. “Blumenthal sues Best Buy.” LegalNewsline.com. URL: (http://www.legalnewsline.com/news/195663-blumenthal-sues-best-buy).