Dell Probed over Taiwan Pricing Errors

Products appeared to be drastically under-priced twice in just ten days.

Taiwan has launched an investigation of Dell over online pricing errors which could be in violation of the island's fair trade law, officials said on July 7.

The Fair Trade Commission is looking into whether Dell is liable of "false or misleading pricing" of its products, punishable by a fine of between 50,000 to 25 million Taiwan dollars (US$1,500 to 760,000), an official said.

The investigation is expected to take two to three months, said the official at the commission.

Dell drew criticism from online shoppers in Taiwan after products appeared to be drastically under-priced twice in just ten days. In the most recent incident, Dell's Latitude E4300 notebook, which costs 60,900 Taiwan dollars, appeared online on July 4 at less than a third of the price at 18,500 dollars, prompting bargain-hunting shoppers to place up to 100,000 orders, according to the local newspaper China Times.

The company has since shut down its Taiwanese online shopping site after being alerted to the error. It will charge customers who placed orders the correct price but has also offered a voucher of 20,000 Taiwan dollars for use as a discount against each purchase in compensation for the error.

However, a local consumer rights group accused Dell of hurting customers' interests and threatened to sue the company or call for a boycott of its products.

"Dell's (online) system has malfunctioned twice but it is acting irresponsibly by ignoring the welfare of consumers," said the Consumers' Foundation, adding other companies had honored contracts following similar errors. "We urge Dell to come up with a reasonable compensation package or ship the products according to the (cheaper) contracts," the foundation said. Dell Taiwan president Terence Liao was quoted by the United Evening News as saying that his company has dealt "sincerely" with the incident.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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