back to article Web crash and pricing errors hit Argos

Argos shoppers who prefer to buy online rather than in-store via the laminated catalogue of dreams were out of luck this morning as the website crashed intermittently and pricing errors showed up. The site was due to be down for routine maintenance from midnight, a spokeswoman at Argos told The Reg, but “there is a separate …

  1. tiggity Silver badge

    lots of people trying website early doors

    .. as news had rapidly spread of dodgy cheap prices and so always a few punters hoping to get lucky and get something dirt cheap due to web site / backend bug.

  2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    According to Argos Ts&Cs, if a product is listed at the wrong price then the customer can cancel or re-order at the correct price

    I'm not sure how literally you're quoting the T&C's here. Use of "can" rather than "must" implies that it's optional, so if an customer orders an inadvertently bargainised games console, then the original order doesn't *have* to be cancelled/changed.

    1. Lee D Silver badge


      According to consumer law, if the price could be considered reasonable and there was offer and acceptance of contract, Argos would be legally obliged to give me the console for that price.

      Sadly, that trumps any T&C's on any website in the known universe if I'm a UK buyer buying from a UK company's website or even store.

      1. TitterYeNot

        "According to consumer law, if the price could be considered reasonable and there was offer and acceptance of contract, Argos would be legally obliged to give me the console for that price."

        Absolutely, 'reasonable' is the key word here.

        From what I can gather, the law on this sort of situation is a bit of a grey area, but I'm going from the experience of a colleague of mine who bought goods from an internet site for around £280 when other retailers' prices were around the £350 mark, and was then told that the price was a mistake and that to get delivery of the goods he'd have to pay the higher price.

        He contacted the Office of Fair Trading and was told that if the internet trader did not deliver the goods, he could buy the same goods from another retailer, and could then take the internet trader to court to get back the difference in price (plus costs), and would almost certainly win. The internet trader then backed down and supplied the goods for the originally quoted price.

        This was because, and only because:

        1. The internet trader had already taken payment from my colleague's bank account, so a contract was in place.

        2. The drop in price could be 'reasonably' assumed to be a discount or promotion, not a mistake. Most judges would deem a price drop from £350 to £280 as fitting this assumption, but in the case in the article, a price drop from £379.99 to £89.99 would almost certainly not be deemed 'reasonable' and would not be enforceable in court.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          The question really is:

          At what point would Argos consider it "goodwill" to honour it, rather than have to go to court to argue the definition of reasonable if someone were to make a fuss?

          I'm guessing a couple of hundred quid for a "one-off gesture of goodwill" is cheaper than admission of fault, or a court case

  3. WibbleMe

    No this has happened before with other eshops, a transaction is contractual and legally they have to honour the sale price

    1. Mike Dolan


      Got any links to a credible source backing that up? All the searches I find indicate that for online buying it can be cancelled and refunded at any point - only when you have it in your grubby mits is it "yours".

      I've heard a number of people say varying statements - but so far no credible sources.

      Enquiring minds would like to know :-)

      1. Mike Dolan

        Re: Source...?

        And by the way, very happy to quote my own source (which I believe is credible).

        Citizens Advice:

        "Shopping online

        Your legal rights depend on something fairly tricky in the law: whether or not you have a ‘contract’.

        Depending on the company’s terms and conditions, you’ll have legal rights (and a contract) either:

        once you’ve paid for the item

        once they’ve sent it to you

        You’ll need to find the company’s terms and conditions to find out where you stand.


        Argos T&Cs clearly state it is when they send it to you. Which seems to be completely legal and fits into the advice quoted above.

        Morally - that's a different discussion ;-)

    2. Test Man

      I don't think this is right. No contract has been formed by merely ordering an item. When money has been taken, then clearly there's a contract there.

      I think they call it an "invitation to treat"

    3. Onid

      Not necessarily

      Not necessarily - if the website is only authorising transactions then transaction isn't contractual until vendor 'accepts' the order on processing and 'captures' transaction. Technically an authorisation is not a sale so this way sale of goods act isn't breached. NB this is how all amazon transactions are processed - marking for dispatch actually 'captures' transaction. I have no idea how argos operates though and wouldn't be the first one that might actually be breaching sale of goods contract if it's just charging cards prior to dispatch/processing. Also in cases where it's been brought to anything close to resembling a judge they have sided with the vendor saying that price discrepancy is obvioiusly wrong in cases where a large 50 inch TV was sold for a pound or some such.

      1. John Riddoch

        Re: Not necessarily

        Per contract law, advertising a good at price X is considered an "invitation to treat". When you try to buy at that price, it's officially an "offer" which is generally accepted by the vendor. Where something is advertised at the wrong price, they can reject the offer to buy, the trick with online buying is at what point the offer is accepted and what conditions may be applied to the acceptance of that offer. I suspect all online traders now have something in the terms and conditions (which we all accept and never read) giving them the option of cancelling the accepted offer for a variety of reasons, thus giving themselves the weasel room to avoid sending you a 42" TV for £1.

        There's a secondary issue around false advertising (bait and switch) if you intentionally advertise at price X but will only sell at price Y, but screwing up your website wouldn't be covered by that.

    4. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      It's happened with Argos before, and no, they were not obliged to sell the goods at the incorrectly advertised prices.

    5. Shane McCarrick


      Google the term 'Invitation to treat'.........

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You know the internet is 99% bullshit right???? It's certainly not a replacement for a lawyer..

        Whilst I wouldn't pay £90 for an Xbox One (what's the point it has no games), it's clearly a pricing error and Argos certainly don't have a right to sell it to you however much you want to believe they do. They can withdraw goods from sale upto the point it's dispatched..

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > No this has happened before with other eshops, a transaction is contractual and legally they have to honour the sale price

      The basis of consumer law is that prices in shops are only an 'offer to treat'. There is no contract until both parties have accepted the transaction, with remuneration. Their T&Cs say that an incorrected priced item will not form a contract.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > "No this has happened before with other eshops, a transaction is contractual and legally they have to honour the sale price"

      There's an obscure law from c.1890 that allowed mail order companies to deem a contract to be made once payment had cleared and the item had been dispatched (rather than once payment had been taken). This was to allow for payment to be made by cheque, and to allow the retailer cash the cheque, wait for it to clear, and only once it had cleared, to dispatch the goods (thus avoiding dispatching the goods and the cheque bouncing or getting cancelled). Most mail order establishments that I've looked at have terms which relate to this (presumably to protect themeselves from pricing goofs and dodgy transactions).

      Trading Standards are OK with the cancelling of orders of "obviously wrongly-priced" items, although they require any pricing mistakes to be corrected quickly - if they're left up, then they'll start considering it bait and switch tactics, and act appropriately (this also applies to "sticker prices" in actual shops).

      1. BeakUpBottom

        Yeah, even in regular shops it's not the clear cut route to a bargain some think.

        The shop can refuse to sell you something for any reason or none, they just can't change their mind once they've accepted your offer to pay the advertised price, based only on the fact they'd marked it up wrong. If they wanted to be arsey, they just make a pretend trip to the store room and come back and tell you the computer was wrong, they've no stock. Even if there is a pile of them, they don't necessarily have to be the ones in the pile that were on sale at £90. Travel firms are tiptoeing around that bait and switch trick all the time, sometimes they get their wrist slapped, sometimes not.

        What you can successfully do is have them ticked off for false advertising (on- or off-line), but the ASA are not about to get huffy over mistakes like that, they're too busy with broadband resellers and double glazing salesman genuinely lying their backsides off.

  4. JimmyPage

    Argos - back from the brink ?

    Last week, I had a 3TB drive I bought from Argos in March fail.

    With the usual trepidation 30+ of dealing with "customer service" I dug out the receipt, and contacted their CS dept via Facebook.

    To cut a long story short, less than an hour later I was returning the faulty drive to an Argos-in-Sainsburys (that wasn't there in March). I was originally happy to settle for a like-for-like, bit the assistant gave me a choice of a straight refund and a £20 bump to get the 4TB version (which wasn't around in March).

    It wasn't in stock - but was delivered 3 hours later (same day).

    So glitches like this aside, it seems someone has pumped some capital into Argos.

    Same day delivery 100Mb/s entry level broadband... who'd live in the sticks ?

    1. peterm3

      Re: Argos - back from the brink ?

      Sainsbury bought them. About 15 years ago I bought a £5 bike lock from them which fell apart, they gave me a refund no questions asked, even though it was 9 months old.

  5. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    Argos web site used to be hosted by IBM E-Business Hosting,.... I wonder if this is still the case?

  6. tiggity Silver badge

    Have they altered their password requirements?

    I was going to buy something from them online a whiel ago, until it got to the point of "joining" - it specified various password criteria ..

    .. only allowed me to enter something way below anything I would regard as a decent complexity password (IIRC a very small max chars limit, various low limits on number of non a-z / digits allowed ) - so I did not bother & went to a nearby "bricks & mortar" shop for the sake of a couple of quid extra in price.

    1. Cynic_999

      Re: Have they altered their password requirements?

      And what password did you have to register before entering the bricks-and-mortar shop? In any case, you could easily have found the item you wanted on the Argos web-site, discovered the closest branch that had it in stock, and then gone to the bricks-and-mortar Argos to pick up with no need to register on their site.

      Unless the e-commerce site keeps your CC details and allows something like Amazon's "one-click" ordering, there's not a lot of mischief anyone could do after gaining access to your online account, so the idea that anyone would spend the necessary number of years to brute-force a "weak" password is pretty far-fetched.

  7. Alister
    Thumb Up

    the laminated catalogue of dreams


    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      It's actually the laminated book of dreams. To catch the tears of joy.

      But they get a chocolate coin for trying.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I was a little disapointed they paraphrased rather than directly quoted the old troll..

      2. A Nonny Moose

        "It's actually the laminated book of dreams. To catch the tears of joy.

        But they get a chocolate coin for trying."

        Only a chocolate coin? Not an Egg of Numbing Inevitability?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wider website pricing / stock issues..

    Is Argos going bust? For months now they've been offering big discounts in areas like Seagate 8TB drives etc, but no actual stock (Irish websites at least). When you write to them they offer / promise fictional availability dates... (I know they're a 2-bit company, but the locations are convenient when you just need some accessories, plus they aren't PC-World / Dixons)...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wider website pricing / stock issues..

      Unlikely, they are more profitable than their new owners Sainsburys.....

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm shocked that people feel they have no options except to go to Argos - they must be doing well on their click-and-collect... or why wouldn't you just go on Amazons?

  10. Da Weezil

    My area is one of those unfortunate enough to be in the trial they are running involving withdrawing the availability of catalogues - they claim that people shop on line more.

    I see that's working well then!

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Mr Dogshit

    How hard can it be to code

    IF salesprice < costprice

    THEN error

    ELSE checkout

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Argos website is and has been terrible for a long time, the Argos in-store ordering system is and has been terrible for a long time. Hopefully the boffins at Sainsbury's can figure something out before too long.

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