Web stores mislead customers with discounts, Consumer assoc. says

Multiple online stores, including bol.com and Coolblue, are misleading customers with the discounts they offer on products, according to consumers’ association Consumentenbond. Some products are listed at higher discounts than the companies are actually giving, the association said.

Consumentenbond surveyed 250 online stores on whether and how they use recommended retail prices – the price that the manufacturer suggests for a product. According to the Consumentenbond, web stores are allowed to offer a discount on the recommended retail price, but must then also state what the actual recommended price is. That does not always happen.

For example, bol.com had an offer on a Sony television for 899 euros. The website said that the TV’s recommended retail price was 1,399 euros, and customers therefore saved 500 euros. But according to Consumentenbond, the actual recommended retail price was 1,000 euros and customers only saved 101 euros.

Consumentenbond found that 30 of the surveyed online stores used recommended retail prices. Twelve of them quoted the recommended price incorrectly, including seven that did so on a structural basis. According to the association, this includes bol.com, Coolblue, Blok Elektro, Foka, Kamera Express, Koopjedeal, and Tandenborstel.com. One store even claimed to offer a discount when in reality the price it listed was higher than the recommended retail price, the association said.

Consumentenbond director Sandra Molenaar wants web stores to stop using recommended retail prices completely. “The suggested retail price is only intended as a manufacturer’s estimate of how much a consumer is willing to pay for a product. So stop using it, as it encourages deception.”

Bol.com denied that it misled its customers. According to the store, the Sony television example the consumers’ association mentioned had to do with the supplier being slow to update its recommended retail price, not bol.com deliberately claiming it offers more discount than it does.