Yesterday, Best Buy’s website had $200 Isaac Mizrahi printed designer gift cards on sale for $15 each. This unreal deal occurred on Tuesday, July 14th. Below you see a screenshot of the deal on my virtual basket and a photo of what happens when you visit the now outdated link for the deal.
Best Buy’s gift card glitch can just as easily be a fashion law problem
The problem with Best Buy most likely was an error in the site’s coding. Sure, someone could have purposely decided to cause mayhem. Or the “problem” itself could have been a ploy to get the Best Buy website more attention (in which case, good going Best Buy, I discovered a waterproof camera I somehow convinced myself of needing).
Whatever the reason behind Best Buy’s site selling $200 gift cards for $15 each, the same thing could happen to any e-commerce website.
If you placed an order, it will likely (and legally) be cancelled
There are federal laws that allow parties to a contract to cancel or call off the contract within a few days of entering into them. This cooling off period is not the reason Best Buy will refuse to gift you the $185 per card you may expect if you considered yourself slick because you were quick enough to make it through the online check-out process.
Your website purchase is not instantly a contract
A contract is basically comprised of three steps:
- An offer: A manifestation of present intent to contract demonstrated by promised undertaking; in definite terms; communicated to the offeree
- Acceptance of the offer: When someone with the power of acceptance communicates an unambiguous assent to the offer’s terms. Acceptance must mirror the terms of the offer and be communicated to the offeror
- Consideration: Mutual agreement of bargained-for exchange of value
Many websites and social media users gushed about Best Buy “offering for sale” $200 gift cards at $15. The offer term there is not synonymous with the “offer” in step one, above.
Advertisements or displays of products do not constitute an offer
A binding contract is not automatically created when someone adds an item to a virtual shopping cart (just as placing something in a shopping cart at a brick and mortar does not automatically make the shopper the owner). The contract also may not be created once your order is placed.
Generally, advertisements and displayed products are considered as invitations to offers. Consequently, when you are purchasing from a website, your order is usually the offer.
Regulation 11 of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 requires online traders to acknowledge receipt of an order by electronic means. This reason is why you may receive an e-mail recognizing your order was received, then later get an e-mail with your confirmation.
What e-commerce website owners should learn from this Best Buy gift card glitch
If you own an e-commerce website, part of your risk management plan should address the possibility of your items showing up with incorrect pricing.
Your website’s terms and conditions should identify what acts constitute the offer and the acceptance. For example, your terms and conditions may clarify that acceptance will only take place once the customer is notified that goods have been shipped. And therefore, a binding contract is only formed once goods have been shipped.