Eddie Bauer was sued by a consumer who paid $6.00 for a pair of leggings originally priced at $12.50. The consumer discovered that the original price was not $12.50, but much less. An Amazon customer complained that a $114.99 vacuum seller changed its list price to $249.99. The seller then reduced that price to $189.95 for two days. After that “special sale price,” for two days only, the seller changed the price back to $114.99. Amazon says that it now has a system for monitoring such practices. Patrick Coffee, “Stores Accused of Fake Sales,” Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2023, p. B5.
Known as “fake sales,” retailers are using the tactic more and more as consumer purchases decline. The Federal Trade Commission does not dabble in pricing guidelines. The states do the regulating of fake sales, and not much regulation is taking place there.
Consumers have been filing suit against the sellers who inflate original prices to lead customers to believe there is a sale item. However, a recent dismissal of such a case has put the kibosh on these class actions. The judge dismissed the suit against Eddie Bauer for the $6.00 leggings because plaintiff purchaser could not show any harm.
So, the risk of being caught is small. Now the risk of having to pay any damages has been reduced as the suits go nowhere. However, the retailer gains market share and revenue boosts. To the retailers it is worth the risk to look better financially, at least on paper.
There is always a way to game the system. The law may not cover the situation, but ethically speaking???