back to article Dell accidentally sells 140,000 monitors for $15 a pop

Taiwan consumer regulators have ordered Dell to honor an online pricing error that offered 19-inch LCD monitors for only NT$500 (US$15, £9). News of the supposed bargain spread quickly over the internet when it was posted June 25 at 11pm. Within the eight hours before it was removed, more than 26,000 customers placed orders …


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  1. James O'Brien


    HAHAHAHAHAHA epic fail on Dells part. That is all

  2. edge_e

    And the legal position on this is?

    In the UK, Dell wouldn't be legally obliged to honour this. Are Taiwanese consumers better protected than us?

  3. dr_forrester

    Compensate buyers?

    Compensate how? Honor the price you posted, or expect to pay even more massive fines and lose lots of sales because people will know that they can't necessarily trust the price on the website.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Also in the news...

    Taiwan consumer regulators have just replaced all their monitors with Dell 19" ones.

  5. Pirate Dave Silver badge

    Compensate the buyers for the mistake...

    Dude, yer not gettin a Dell.

    Side note: I see that selecting an icon has gone Web1.5. No more HTML 1.0 radio buttons here, thanks...

  6. Jon Lamb


    26000 monitors at £81 difference = £11.34 million!

  7. David Kelly 2

    Dell pricing mistakes are common

    Dell pricing mistakes are so common that when I hear of a Dell price that is too good to be true, its no longer worth the effort to attempt to make a purchase.

  8. ZenCoder
    Thumb Down

    They don't honor price mistakes in the US.

    A few days ago they accidentally had a monitor on sale for $150 when they intended it to be on sale for $250. I bought one last week for $201 after taxes so its maybe $30-40 cheaper than that.

    I can't complain much as the confirmation email specifically mentions that they will not honor any price mistakes.

    Still it bugs me a bit that they are honoring a obvious price mistake in Taiwan, but not even giving the people in the US anything for their inconvenience on a plausible sales price.

  9. Cameron Colley

    Good decision.

    I know how easy it is to make a simple typo -- but these things should be checked and consumers seem to be seeing more and more of these "accidental" offers.

  10. Shane McCarrick

    This is so, not going to happen over here......

    A tenner for a 19" LCD panel..... Nice one if you need a new panel- I can't see there being a ready market for anyone hoping to make a quick buck reselling them thought...... 19" LCD panels are pretty much obsolete? If it was 22" or 24" widescreen panels- that would be a different story......

    I do think its a bit much trying to browbeat Dell into honoring a genuine pricing error though- there is no consumer enforcement agency in Europe or the States who would dream of this. It does smack of opportunism on the part of the Taiwanese........

  11. Seán

    Hahaha Dell

    That's what they get for pissing off out of Ireland, bad luck every day. I'd love to see their Irish sales figures over the last two years or so.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These Taiwanese superl33t haxx0rs had better post photos

    of their awesome 5-monitor rigs

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Dell sometimes DO honour misprices

    I got a Dell Inspiron Mini 9 for £99 last November after it was posted on the hotukdeals site.

  14. Jim 46
    Thumb Down

    19" monitor

    Wouldnt even want a 19" monitor for that price - what a waste of desk space.

  15. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Not the first time

    Dell did this in Australia a few years back with hard drives at something like 95% off, and since they charged the customers' credit cards they were bound to that price by the contract of sale into which had been entered. Legally that was the end of it but when they started reversing the orders without the customers' consent the consumer protection authorities stepped in and bitchslapped them.

    ZenCoder: The use of bait and switch tactics muddies the issue slightly, but basically the way contract law usually works is that the seller advertises a price, you offer to buy it at that price (or make an alternative offer of another price), and they then either accept or decline your offer. They can decline at any point before the contract of sale has been entered, but in the situation described above their automated systems accepted the offer and completed the sale. This is what presumably happened in Taiwan, and shouldn't be any different in the USA.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once upon a time

    I don't know if honouring prices is still legally required under our fair trading standards, but it used to be. It used to be regarded as deceptive advertising if you priced your product incorrectly and then changed the price when people tried to purchase that product. That was because there was no way of knowing whether you did this deliberately to lure people into your shop.

    I remember various trading standards cases when ads in newspapers or prices listed in the shops themselves were wrong and had to be honoured because of this law. Simply the threat of involving the trading standards office was enough most times to get them to honour prices, because the cost of honouring the mistake was usually far less than the cost of hiring the kind of legal assistance necessary to win against a government agency.

    But I suspect that along with most other things that have to do with the rights of actual people, trading standards laws have been watered down thanks to pressure from lobbyists and special interest groups working on behalf of big business.

  17. wsm
    Thumb Up

    All too often

    Dell does this regularly here, with pricing at anywhere from a few percentage points discount to nearly a complete give-away. But in most cases, they simply apologize and cancel all orders. Nothing else happens.

    Perhaps holding them accountable would cure some of their self-checking policies, or lack thereof.

  18. citizenx

    Re: Shane McCarrick

    >19" LCD panels are pretty much obsolete?

    Since when?!

    If that's a statement, back it up, if its a question, then no is my answer.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Taiwanese are lucky

    Here in The Netherlands it works slightly different.

    When the customer can be expected to know the price is incorrect ($15 for a monitor??) the company isn't obliged to deliver.

  20. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Makes you wonder

    just how bad their computer ordering system is.

    1) It didn't notice the price was a bit iffy - any two bit company would check the web price against BOM -or at least the two bit companies I've worked for have.

    2) It didn't notice a rush of orders - see above for sales exec automatic house purchasing mechanisms or at least delivery problems.

  21. simon newton

    @ Edge_E

    Infact, something just like this did happen to Dell in the UK - in 2003 if I recall correctly. They had a small promo of new (pretty decent) barebones base units on an overstock for 99 quid each. The URL was meant only for a certain group of customers, but word spread like wildfire and after many hours the overloaded site was shut down. I myself bought a 99 quid unit, however dell took the time to write to everyone and basicly tell us all to take a hike for taking the p*ss, even though purchase receipts has been issued. The justification was that my payment card had not been "settled" yet, only authorised. So the authorisation would lapse and no contact of sale took place. At least thats what they said ;)

  22. Owain 2


    in the UK actually they do have to accept whatever price they have put onto the item i think it comes under the fair trade act, one prime example i got a sandwich that is normally £3.50 for 95p because the person labelling them had put the wrong price on and the shop had to change 95p.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @19" monitor haters.

    Well, in the real world, there are still hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people using CRTs or LCD < 19". I'm sure they would love a 19" panel for $10. Just because you don't want one, doesn't mean the ROW doesn't. Try being a little less selfish - perhaps the world would be a better place.

    When are El Reg* commentators going to actually think before they write?

    (* Or indeed anyone commenting on any net site)

  24. Thomas Kenyon

    Happened before

    Not if there is a disclaimer, something along the lines of advertised prices represent an offer of service and do not constitude a contract of sale etc.

    I remember a similar thing happening years ago, where the machine cabe with a 19in CRT screen, if you downgraded to a 17in screen £35 was taken off the price, if you downgraded to 2 x 17in screens, £70 was taken off the price.

  25. deshepherd

    @Owain 2

    I read up on this when I also had a misprice on a sandwich .... from what I recall shops do *NOT* have to honour the price displayed (or even printed on the packet) ... however, if they deliberately display misleading prices in a way that is likely to confuse customers then that is an offence. Thus if a sandwich is mistakenly labelled as 95p instead of £3.50 then the shop is within its rights to say at the cash till that they are selling it at £3.50 (clearly there's a secondary issue of whether they think an argument over £2.45 is worth customer good will + making the rest of the queue wait) but if they stuck up a big sign in the window saying "all sandwiches 95p" and then said at the till "actually they are £3.50" then that's where TS step in.

  26. Neil Milner-Harris


    Actually, you were lucky as the retailer is under no obligation to sell you anything at any price. They are fully within their rights to refuse to sell you that sandwich at the full correct price for no other reason than they don't want to.

    In addition there is a clause in the fair trade legislation providing for genuine pricing errors. If a retailer has made a genuine pricing error without any attempt to mislead then they are protected from pursuit under the fair trade act. However they do need to demonstrate that they took rapid action to correct the issue once they had been made aware of it.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The UK

    "in the UK actually they do have to accept whatever price they have put onto the item i think "

    No, you are wrong. A shop has no legal obligation to sell you an item at any price and can cancel any time until you pay for the goods.

    So your sandwich, they could of turned round and said, no were are not going to sell it to you . End of Story.

    Even if you have "paid" for the goods online, you still not have bought the goods until the money comes out of your account. Therefore, provided they cancel any transactions before they clear, you have not bought them.

    After that, it gets a lot more murky.....

  28. Jon Kinsey

    No they don't

    In the uk all the prices on goods are just suggestions and the price they ask for at the till is what you have to pay. At least that's what it was like a few years ago.

    Of course a lot of shops do honour mis-pricings on shelves, but that is their policy to make you trust the prices you see.

  29. Michael McLean
    Thumb Up

    works same in UK

    When i was younger i got a Sega Mega Drive game which should have cost £30 for £4 as it was marked wrong, WOO!! lol

  30. John Gray
    Thumb Down

    @Jon Lamb does a Dell!

    "26000 monitors at £81 difference = £11.34 million!"

    Not by my calculator, which makes it £2.106M...

  31. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

    Around here

    they would be required to sell it at such a price.

  32. Dark Ian

    No 'edge' you arr wrong

    This is different. If the supplier does not enter a contract of sale with you after you request an item, then they don't have to sell. On the web with mail order if they haven't taken payment then you can't demand the goods.

    Taiwan should do one. How can a fair trading policy advocate taking advantage of an obvious pricing mistake?

  33. Tony S

    Trading laws in UK

    When someone puts an item up for sale with a stated price, then the legal term is "offer to treat". But they are not actually obliged to sell it it at that price whatever you might think. If they withdraw the offer, they commit no offence.

    However, if you say that you want to buy it at that price and they then accept your offer (e.g. they take a credit card payment or cash, even part payment or a signature on an agreement), at that point they then have a binding contract with you to sell it at the stated price.

    They must then honour the contract or you can claim "breach of contract". Or you can simply change your mind and not buy - they cannot force you to buy it at the higher price.

    There are trading standards laws that are there to prevent traders from making false promises of a lower price and then charging a higher price - for example one price on a shelf sticker but charging a higher price at a till. The penalties for this can be quite high - thousands of pounds for a mistake of a few pennies.

    The goods also have to be of "marketable quality" - they can offer goods at a lower price if they identify that there is a problem, but they must still be "fit for purpose"

    Not a lawyer - but 30 + years working in retail and wholesale trading.

  34. Anna Logg

    Dell do seem to do this regularly here

    >>in the UK actually they do have to accept whatever price they have put onto the item i think it comes under the fair trade act, one prime example i got a sandwich that is normally £3.50 for 95p because the person labelling them had put the wrong price on and the shop had to change 95p.

    It isn't that simple in the UK, the price marked is merely an ' invitiation to treat' ; the price is not legally binding on either side until a contract exists, generally at the point when money changes hands. Thats's why most internet shops have something in their T&Cs along the lines of ' a contract does not exist between us until the item is shipped' or similar, maximising their time window to spot cock-ups.

    Anyway, 4 years ago I bought a decent Dell desktop system with 19" (4:3) monitor for 350 quid, at least 200 quid below the going rate at the time, last week they had some high spec desktop units for 350 quid, allegedly underpriced by 150 quid.

  35. Matt B

    When will they learn...?

    Dell also recently cocked-up by selling CAD graphics cards for something like £15 when they should have been £2-3k+, however I think they realised what was going on and cancelled all orders.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    England & Wales consumer law

    basically says that if a mistake is made then the seller does not have to sell you anything at any quoted price (actually they are not obliged to sell you anything until the contract is confirmed - usually at the acceptance of money at both ends)

    @Owain 2: they would have had no obligation to sell you the buttie, however it is likely that they honoured the price as the loss of rep / business would have been worse than the direct loss of £2.55. At the stage that they say "95p, please" and you hand over wedge the deal is done and they are not allowed to change their mind, even if they notice the mistake - although there are caveats to the whole thing.

    If the price was deliberately misleading then an offense may have occurred and you may have some recourse yourself, and in the case of genuine mistakes there is an onus for the seller to notify you as soon as they are aware of the problem and take appropriate steps to rectify the pricing.

    What is important is the stage at which the contract is negotiated. When the 4th Gen iPods were released Amazon UK kept basically the same product page as for the 3rd gen and just changed the numeral and the price.

    As the 4th gen did not come with about £90 worth of extras that were included with the 3rd gen the price was lower, but the advert still listed the extra goodies.

    So I placed an order and took a copy of the web page. Amazon's terms and conditions were that once the confirmation email had been sent the contract was in force. They sent me the iPod less goodies, I complained, they whined, I complained again, they told me it was a mistake, I threatened them with TS and the courts, they sent the kit.

  37. Simon Preston

    @ Owain 2

    Not true. A shop can decline a sale for any reason. What normally happens though is if the shop know they made the error they will normally sell it at that price as a gesture of goodwill. I've had instances of people sticking their own labels on items trying to get it that price. Doesn't hold up.

  38. Paul H

    Price mistakes

    I remember about 10 years back I spotted PC World Business Direct, who we had an account with, had an 8 processor server listed for £7.00 with free shipping. I did think about how much it would cock up their system if I placed an order, but in the end decided to play nice and informed our account manager of the mistake. Also I didn't have anywhere to put an 8 processor server in my bedroom. It would have made an awesome game server though. :(

  39. King Edward I

    @Owain 2

    Wrong. The price on an item in not a "price" it's an "invitation to treat". You have to offer a price, the store owner has to accept, and there has to be payment, that's how a contract is made. If something has been genuinely priced wrong, the store is under no obligation to honour it. Of course, in your case, they may have done it as a goodwill gesture, but it was in no way legally required.

    The issue gets murky in online territory when they've taken the money off your card. Technically at that point you have a legally binding contract which is where the "payment card has not been "settled" yet" tricks that Simon Newton method comes into play. I have no idea if this has ever been tested in court!

  40. Justabloke 1


    @Owain 2 / @Ac - Once Upon a Time

    You are describing a common myth in the UK. IE thats the ticket price, thats the price they have to sell at.

    Its absolutely not the case, never has been, never will be.

    The retailer is allowed to withdraw the product from sale, or declare a genuine mistake has been made and ask the purchaser to pay the higher price, of course the purchaser can always say no.

    Retailers frequently do honour stickers prices but there is no legal obligation for them to do so.

    The laws as they apply to internet shopping are a little different because of the distance selling regs.

  41. Subban

    @simon newton

    If Dell issued a reciept, then they had accepted your payment, it wouldn't matter if you had sent in a cheque, payment was offered, the reciept idicates it was accepted a contract is then entered into.

    If they only issued a "thank you for your order", then no purchase contract was entered into. So they are not obliged to honour it,

    It then boils down to whether the offer was too good to be true, such as the offer in this article (unless of course they had "sale, or special offer emblazoned everywhere to make it appear a genuine clearance). In the UK if a price would appear to any normal person to be too good to be true, the company wouldn't be forced to honour it, whether or not an automatic sales receipt was issued or not. Clearly Taiwan has a different legal position, the joys of global trading :]

    I have experienced this first hand with an "offer" kodak ran a few years ago. It was for a new digital camera and dock, a couple packs of photo paper etc and other bits for £100, rather than the £399 RRP. Kodak refused initially to honour it despite the automatic receipt issued on ordering it. A bunch of us got together though, a lawyer gave us legal advice for free and the long and short of it was that because the web page we ordered from had "SALE" on it, the offer appeared to be genuine, not a mistake. We all got our cameras, it wasn't worth £399 (digital zoom etc) but it was a damn fine one for £100 :]

  42. mike2R

    Stupid Decision

    I can't believe there are so many people who think this decision by Taiwan makes sense. I suppose it's just because Dell are a big company and therefore people think it's ok to rip them off.

    But a simple error like this, by a junior member of staff, would bankrupt a small company if this idiot decision was upheld.

  43. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
    Paris Hilton

    @Owain 2 and others

    I believe that in the situation where the product is on the shelf and the price is displayed on the shelf but there is only a bar code on the product, that when you bring the product to the checkout the shop has to honour the price display the shelf. I believe that failure to do so comes under misleading advertising heading.

    Paris, who regularly misoverestimates her price

  44. Anonymous Coward

    # Dell has no concept of stock

    so dell rekons they can supply 26000 monitors then?

    I'd have thought the website would have triggered an alert at some point and stopped selling at another... surely a robust system would link retail price to supply price and alert for descrepncies, I know my systems do...

  45. Anonymous Coward

    @Stupid Decision - mike2R

    its a stupid decision but not because of your reasons.

    its stupid cos someone has to pay! that will be all of dells other customers.

  46. Owain 2
    Thumb Up

    @ Everyone's comments to mine

    it's amazing how many different ways these laws are understood and how many different laws maybe in play over the simple miss labelling of an item, personally I think the company should have to charge the price they show even if it is a mistake because we as the consumer are buying that item in good faith that price shown is the price it’s being sold at.

  47. Mark Rogers


    The problem with mistakes like this is people take the piss and order multiples of them hopeing to offload them and make some money. If they stuck to just buying 1 of them the companies would be more likely to just take the loss (sometimes).

    A lot of companies have policies of not being obliged to sell mistakenly priced items that's why they often don't take the money straight away.

  48. mike2R

    Re: @Stupid Decision - Anon

    Um, not really. Dell, like any merchant, set their prices based on where they think they can make the most money - if they thought a higher price would make more then they would already be charging it.

    If this goes through it will just come out of their reserves/borrowing facility (ultimately it costs the shareholders). Since they are huge no doubt they can handle it.

    If it happened to us (thankfully it won't since we are UK and UK law isn't _that_ bad), we'd be bankrupt and I'd be looking for a new job.

  49. Miguel Farah

    It doesn't happen only in Chile...

    Dell has made similar mistakes in my country three times in the last five years. Altough the law sides with the buyer in a case like this, Dell flat out stated they wouldn't honor their responsibility (a sort-of-class action lawsuit for the second case is still undecided).

  50. Brian Miller 1

    @ Jon Lamb

    where do you get this figure of £81 price difference. Retail price maybe. Don't forget that most of the flat panels are manufactured on that side of the globe and the actual COST price to dell is probably $30-$50 US so really they will be losing a lot less.

    They never would have made that number of sales if they had listed the real intended price so you can't even claim your figure as reasonable lost sales. BUT Dell will be able to write down the losses against taxes anyway so Boo fucking hoo.

    Poor suckers have to live with having a dell monitor. And a dell warranty. As we all know both aren't really worth a shit.

    And as for UK law. The shops still must honor any the lowest displayed price. No watering down has occurred to UK trading standards. People here just don't stand up for their rights the same as elsewhere. I remember a rogue supermarket employee got fired for discounting loads of goods overnight. Hilarious. More of the same supermarket workers of the world unite.

  51. Tony S

    @Brian Miller 1

    "And as for UK law. The shops still must honor any the lowest displayed price."

    Honor = US spelling - is this an indication of poor spelling or that you are a US citizen and therefore more have limited actual knowledge of UK law?

    As previously indicated, in the UK the law is very clear - no-one is required to sell you anything at all at any price, whatever you may think.

    It is true that if they accept your money, they cannot then try to ask you for more - and you can sue them if they do charge you more than the stated price. But if the price says £1 for a £1000 product, they can refuse to sell it to you and there is SFA you can do about it.

  52. Brian Miller 1

    @ Tony S

    You caught me. I am USA born, was taught at a British school and university though. In a way your right. Any shop can refuse to serve anyone and everyone provided it is not based on race, religion, creed, ability, RACE or age etc etc. as it is against human rights legislation. Pretty hard to prove that you were not prejudiced against for any one of those reasons. If you are drunk or abusive then it is likely that you will get told to fuck off, but in general shops don't go around chucking people out because of there own errors.

    Also you have a right to report any company for false advertising if they display an inaccurate price. I did consumer rights law in my engineering course and so actually you seem to be the one unfamiliar with your own countries laws. Also I live in Scotland where they still value their civil liberties as opposed to that shithole England tacked on to the mightily large arse end of the island. Scotland has its own law system where the law is generally more the little guys side.

    Anyway, S Tony you seem to have a bit of a casual racist streak in you, not unlike many of your fellow countrymen. I have suffered through the Bush years silently but now I speak up and throw shit in your face. Ballbag.

  53. Andus McCoatover

    £3.50 - for a Sarnie??? FFS!!!

    You must be daft*. Make 'em yourself. Pop 'em in your briefcase. Take to work. Eat.

    See? I should replace Gordon Brown. I just saved you around £2.50 with that 'shrewd' financial advice.

    "Prudent", my arse. No wonder the UK's up-shi*t-creek.

    *Or a banker. Yep, that was B-A-N-K-E-R

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