Dell hit with Oz court case for misleading prices on monitors

Watchdog claims add-ons to computer purchases appeared to be discounted but did not reflect the standalone RRP

Dell's Australian business is in trouble with the country's consumer watchdog for allegedly misleading buyers about the price of displays purchased as an add-on with its computers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it has initiated Federal Court proceedings against Dell Australia Pty Limited, claiming the company made "false or misleading representations" regarding the price of monitors that consumers could add to purchases of Dell computers when buying online via its website.

According to the ACCC, when a buyer selected a desktop or laptop for purchase via the Dell Australia website, they would be offered the option of adding a monitor to their purchase during the checkout process. It claims that the price for this monitor was displayed alongside a higher price covered by a strike-through line, with the difference between the two representing a significant saving for the buyer.

This is a standard sales approach; offer the customer an add-on for their purchase at a discount price. However, the ACCC alleges that the strike-through price shown did not represent the actual standalone price of the display being offered, and that in some cases the add-on price offered to buyers was higher than if the monitor had been bought separately.

This situation is said to have occurred during a period from about August 2019 through to December 16, 2021, according to the agency, which is seeking penalties, declarations, consumer redress, and costs against the company.

"We allege that Dell Australia made false, misleading or deceptive statements on its website to entice consumers to add on monitors to the purchase of a computer by displaying false or misleading discounts," ACCC Commissioner Liza Carver said in a statement.

Carver added that the proceedings are also significant because the alleged misleading conduct happened during a period of time when many people in Australia would have been under a COVID lockdown, and many consumers were reliant on buying new equipment via online purchasing for working and educating their children from home.

"We have commenced these proceedings because we are concerned that Dell's presentation of allegedly inflated discounts meant some consumers may have added monitors to their purchase which they may not have otherwise bought, or which they could have bought more cheaply from another section of Dell’s website," she said.

The total number of misled consumers is unknown, according to the ACCC, but it believes that many thousands were sold an add-on display advertised with a misleading discount price.

In a statement, Dell said that the issue had affected about 2,100 customers, and claimed it was due to an error in its pricing processes which led to incorrect information being displayed. Dell said it is working to ensure the error does not happen again. ®

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