Some consumers may learn the big discount they found on an item they bought online is later withdrawn. (iStock)

Online shoppers warned about cancelled discounts

Nearly half of Canadians are expected to be looking for online bargains during the biggest shopping events of  the year which are Black Friday, this year on Nov. 23, and Cyber Monday on Nov 26. But Canada’s Competition Bureau is warning shoppers to be on the lookout for big discounts that are later cancelled.

This independent law enforcement agency is flagging a trend whereby an item is advertised at a big discount, a consumer purchases it but later gets an email claiming there was an error and the price cannot be honoured.

The order may be cancelled and by then, the exact same product may be advertised at a higher price.

The Competition Bureau invites consumers who feel they have been treated unfairly to complain. (iStock)

Consumers can complain

This practice may be seen as an illegal bait and switch and consumers lured by it can complain to the Competition Bureau. It warns consumers to protect themselves by being sure to:

  • Always keep email purchase confirmations and credit card statements.
  • Get a complete refund if the order can’t be fulfilled at the right price.
  • Confirm that the money is back into your account.
  • Keep any email exchanges with the retailer’s customer service, especially a confirmation that they’ll give a full refund.
  • Double-check the website if they claim the item is unavailable at the price offered. If the ad is still up, take a screen shot, ask questions and request that it be corrected so fellow bargain hunters don’t fall into the same trap.
  • Keep records and file a complaint with the Competition Bureau if the retailer claims the item is unavailable at the price you paid but it’s available at a higher price.
  • Know that depending on provincial or territorial consumer protection law, the retailer may have to honour the advertised price. Contact your local consumer protection agency to learn more.

The Competition Bureau also suggests special precautions as follows:

  • Use a credit card; many offer protection and may give you a refund.
  • Regularly check your credit card statements for frequent or unknown charges.
  • Don’t hesitate to contact the retailer’s customer service if you have questions, especially if your money is gone and there’s no product in sight. You might only have a small window of time to flag the problem and alert your credit card provider.
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