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I purchased an item from a legitimate online store of a business registered and operating near me.

I paid with credit card and received an email with my "order confirmation", stating the order number, price paid, shipping address, and details of the item paid for. The money was deducted from my account by the merchant.

After receiving the order confirmation email, I received a call from the seller saying that the product was "mistakenly listed at a lower price than they wanted to sell it for" so they would not honor the purchase and had already issued a refund.

The item was indeed listed at around 10% of the price that I can purchase it elsewhere.

Can I enforce the order and have them either send me the product at that price, or the amount of money to buy that same product elsewhere?

What is the law on situations like this?

Their terms & conditions have no mention of this kind of situation or any general right to cancel the order etc.

At what point can the seller cancel the deal without my consent? Before confirming the order? Before taking payment? Before shipping? Before delivery? There must be a clear boundary somewhere. I'd like to know where it is and whether it was crossed in this particular case.

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    I'm fairly sure the answer is "no" but the details will depend on the jurisdiction. But even if the answer is "yes," is the 90% savings large enough in magnitude to justify the expense of taking the seller to court?
    – phoog
    Oct 26, 2022 at 22:33
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    @phoog I agree that the jurisdiction matters. At minimum, the legal reasoning and analysis in one state or country may be different from the analysis in another, even if the end result is the same.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 27, 2022 at 0:03
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    @Greendrake no because I understand if an item is listed in a store it's just an offer to treat...so they would then be able to refuse to sell it at that price when made an offer by the customer...but in my case, I've made the offer and they've accepted automatically with an order confirmation email...so I believe they've already accepted my offer and are now refusing to honor it
    – user31435
    Oct 27, 2022 at 0:43
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    This isn't a duplicate, although related. In the linked question, the error is in the ad, and correction is made before payment is offered sand accepted. That makes the legal situation quite different. Oct 27, 2022 at 19:29

1 Answer 1

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Probably not

Once you and the store have entered into a contract the price in that contract is determinative. However, most online stores' terms are very clear there is no contract when you place your order or when you get their automated reply; the contract comes into existence later when they do something. For example:

With respect to products sold by Amazon AU, your order is an offer to us for you to buy the product(s) in your order. ... The Order Confirmation is acknowledgement that we have received your order, and does not confirm our acceptance of your offer to buy the product(s) ordered. We only accept your offer, and conclude the contract of sale for a product ordered by you, when we dispatch the product(s) to you and send e-mail or post a message on the Message Centre of the website confirming that we've dispatched the product to you (the "Dispatch Confirmation"). ...

Now, even without these terms, it's unlikely that your offer and the company's automated response created a binding contract because the company (as in, an actual person acting for the company) did not consent to the formation of the contract. Consent is fundamental: see What is a contract and what is required for them to be valid?.

What you received was an "order confirmation" - a reiteration of your offer to the company, not an acceptance of your order.

Consumer protection

Most jurisdictions have consumer protection laws that make it illegal to display an incorrect price. However, in most, that does not oblige the retailer to honour the price, it just exposes them to fines from the regulator.

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    If the company has a robot that handles the entire process fully automatically, is there ever a contract?
    – Someone
    Oct 27, 2022 at 3:30
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    @Someone yes. From the Amazon example - if the process of dispatching and sending the email were totally automated (not yet, but I'm sure they're working on it) then the robotic dispatch would create the contract. Vending machines are another example although there the law is slightly different - displaying merchandise in a vending machine is not an offer to treat, it is an actual offer so acceptance lies with the buyer.
    – Dale M
    Oct 27, 2022 at 3:32
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    So Amazon says quite clearly that the order confirmation does not form a contract, but that dispatching the order and sending you a notification about that forms the contract. So if they dispatch it and send a notification, and five seconds later they notice your new computer should have been $1000 and not $100, then it is yours.
    – gnasher729
    Oct 27, 2022 at 7:52
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    In England and Wales, I am pretty sure there is an exception for "genuine errors", so if they wanted to sell for £119, but listed for £109, they might be in trouble - but if they list for £11.90 they are probably going to be OK. Oct 27, 2022 at 10:31
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    Does it make a difference that the vendor actually took the money even before they sent the order confirmation?
    – xxbbcc
    Oct 27, 2022 at 14:55

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