HP’s £399 laptop bargain was too good to be true
Anna Tims Consumer champion of the year MM, Plymouth
HP kept emailing me special offers so I checked its website. One offer for a HP Envy 17 laptop at £399 was so good that I placed an order and received various emails confirming the order and payment. Parcelforce texted the delivery slot. No delivery. Parcelforce and HP’s tracking systems then claimed I had refused the parcel. I scheduled a redelivery for the next day. Parcelforce then rang me and the agent acknowledged a delivery had not been attempted and that the tracking information was false. It claimed HP had requested that the parcel be returned to sender. HP denied this and promised, in two subsequent emails, to send a replacement. Nothing came. I called HP again and was again promised a replacement was on its way. An email confirmed this the next day. Then came another email informing me HP had recalled the item due to a pricing error, stating it was under no obligation to provide a product if a pricing error was “obvious and unmistakable and could have reasonably been recognised by you as a mispricing”. I accept a mistake has been made, but can’t see how the onus of deciding whether there is a genuine spot discount, or a mistake, should rest with the customer. And, two weeks later, I still haven’t been refunded. If you hadn’t attached all the emails from HP and Parcelforce inventing and reinventing the story of your failed delivery, I’d have struggled to believe it. Let’s start with the legal nitty gritty. Once a contract has been formed between a retailer and a customer, either when an order has been confirmed or after it has been shipped, the retailer can’t cancel if it discovers a pricing error. HP’s terms and conditions state that the contract is formed once the order confirmation is sent. The retailer can only back out of the deal if it can show that you deliberately took advantage of a mistake. A £1,399 laptop advertised at £10 is a mistake any customer would recognise. A £1,399 laptop priced at £399 as a special offer is more plausible. In 2002 Kodak was forced to honour its contract with more than 2,000 customers after erroneously advertising a £329 camera at £100. You assumed the deal was genuine when it was still being advertised the day after you spotted it. HP’s behaviour sent you on a week-long wild goose chase and unleashed chaos at the Parcelforce depot. Royal Mail told me, apologetically, that HP requested the return of the laptop while it was out for delivery, a request so rare no relevant tracking update existed. So the driver scanned the “refused delivery” option. HP ignored my questions about how many customers were affected and why it repeatedly gave you false information. It stated merely that all affected customers had been notified. It says: “We are taking steps to ensure we deliver the first-class experience customers can expect from HP at all times, including with regard to communications with specific customers.” You were contacted after my intervention and a refund arrived along with a 20% voucher nearly three weeks after it was first promised.