Harvey Norman scrambles to fix sale faux pas

  • 02/10/2015
Harvey Norman scrambles to fix sale faux pas

A consumer rights watchdog says retailer Harvey Norman should cut its losses and honour sales after a major website glitch meant hundreds of customers walked away with deals too good to be true.

What was promoted as "New Zealand's Biggest Retail Sale" turned out to be a bit bigger than the retailer was hoping, when an error on its website pricing saw items worth thousands of dollars selling for less than $100.

Customers took to Facebook on Wednesday to post about buying lounge suites for as little as $103 and dining sets for $150.

But after having the prices up incorrectly for more than eight hours, the company sent 327 customers a message saying the whole thing had been an error.

"Unfortunately this morning between 0.01am and 8.00am there was an error with the Furniture department pricing. We apologise for this genuine error and wish to advise that a customer service person will be in contact with you shortly to discuss your purchase," the email read.

Left red-faced, the company offered some clients a $100 apology voucher in exchange for refunding the orders.

But Consumer NZ chief Sue Chetwin said the company should honour the sales, saying it would do better to turn the affair into a positive PR story.

"We're getting disaffected people calling us now and calling for advice ... If I was Harvey Norman I would give those people what they thought they paid for and get on with it," she said.

"Depending on what position people are in, we are saying you might be able to do better than that [$100]."

She said it was arguable companies could make mistakes in contract law which would void the sales, but that it was probably not worth it for the retailer to litigate the issue, given the scale of its loss.

"Companies are allowed to make mistakes, but part of the problem is that they have spent a huge amount of money advertising the `biggest retail sale ever' so consumers may well have believed this was the price things were being offered at," she said.

"Secondly, it was up for eight hours, so you very well could have gone away and come back and still found the same price."

The company also upset customers with its apology email, which CCed all customers in, revealing their emails to everyone else on the list.

Ms Chetwin said it was a clear "breach of privacy", albeit not a serious one.

Harvey Norman has declined to comment.