Glitch Catches Harvey Norman NZ Off-Guard

By Rory Betteridge | 01 Oct 2015

The New Zealand arm of department chain Harvey Norman has some explaining to do with its customers, after a glitch in its online store saw customers purchasing high-end lounge suites and dining tables for op-shop prices.

Harvey Norman (NZ), which launched “New Zealand’s Biggest Retail Sale” last night, found this morning that for eight hours, customers could buy whole dining suites and lounge suites, usually on sale for up to $5000, with bargain-bin pricetags under $100.

“This lady put (a post on Facebook) and said ‘oh look what I’ve got for $103’,” commented shopper Alex Lewis to Allied Media, “and so we were all like, ‘yeah, let’s all get in too’ and we all did. I have my receipt for my $103 lounge suite and I actually bought another couple of lounge suites too ‘cos at that price, why wouldn’t you, so three lounge suites for under $500.”

Another customer was able to secure two lounge suites for $95 and $103 respectively.

“I thought it was unbelievable, unbelievable,” he said. “I bought a couple of three piece lounge suites. I’ve been invoiced for them and the money has gone out of my bank.”

“If you look at the site it’s still going a bit nutty now. There was a lounge suite for $183,000 but they’ve just dropped it down. I don’t know if hackers have got in or it’s a disgruntled employee or what’s happened.”

This afternoon, however, many customers were contacted by Harvey Norman NZ representatives, informing them that the sales wouldn’t go through. Lewis, for instance, was told by a rep that she wouldn’t receive her bought items.

“They’ve said that they will get a full refund and that they may get a small discount on the (correct) purchase price on the item that they’ve purchased online,” she said. “Looking at the price you’re like, ‘That’s unbelievable’, but I thought Harvey Norman could come to the party a bit better than that. So everyone’s up in arms about it.”

All customers who took advantage of the unbelievable deals received an email from Harvey Norman NZ this morning, blaming ‘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.

In a second major error, unfortunately this email was sent along with the email address of every customer affected by the glitch, only further damaging an already tenuous customer relationship.

Experts in contractual and privacy law believe that Harvey Norman NZ may be liable for civil action, if not for refusing to honour the sales then for the invasion of privacy, but that it was likely the retailer would seek relief under the Contractual Mistakes Act.

“If a customer genuinely thought there was no mistake, then in theory they can enforce the contract for the low price,” lawyer Michael Wigley told Stuff NZ. “However, say the lounge suite full price was $2000 and the sale price was $100, a customer is likely find it difficult in practice to persuade a court or disputes tribunal that they thought the price was genuine.”

Harvey Norman Australia, which is independent of its NZ counterpart, was unaffected by the issue.

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