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Thursday, 4 May, 2000, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Compaq's 1 desktop dilemma
Compaq has come under fire from consumers
Computer company Compaq said on Thursday it would charge customers the full 530 for its desktop computer Compaq Ipaq Legacy Lite, despite mistakenly pricing it at 1 on its web site.

The company said the mistake, which took place at the weekend, was purely down to "human error".

"Obviously this is not ideal, but I think we have learnt lessons from it," Compaq's UK spokeswoman Nicola Adamson told BBC News Online.

She said a full investigation into the matter was taking place, and that most customers had understood the 1 offer was a mistake.

400 units for free

Ms Adamson said clients had placed orders for about 400 units.

She said the error had happened when Compaq had been upgrading and testing its site, and the price had accidentally been left on the live site.

Observers said the debacle raised questions about e-tailing and the legal implications of doing business on the internet.

"Compaq is such a market leader in the field of e-commerce and by not honouring the deal they are putting another dent in people's trust in the online industry," Gary Cheers, a director of internet specialists, who bought one of PCs, said.

"It also opens up the way for abuse from other e-tailers to offer products for sale at one price and then insist on another higher price," he said.

Some customers want their 1 computer
Ali Gabriel, an IT administrator, who also tried to buy the computer for 1, said it was "ridiculous" that Compaq had not been able to guarantee the price it had posted on the web.

"Are you suggesting that if Compaq had charged me 400 one day, then changed the price to 200 the next day, they'd refund the difference? I think not," he said.

Within legal rights

But Ms Adamson said Compaq was within its legal rights to refuse to sell customers the computer for 1.

She said customers had been offered a free printer if they bought the computer at the original 530 price or another computer model in its place.

Mr Gabriel said he would consider legal action against Compaq, but acknowledged that it could be difficult following the recent Argos case.

"I'm not really sure what we can do," he said.

A recent case against high street retailer Argos was dropped before it went to court after the store refused to sell televisions advertised on its web site at 2.99 instead of 299.99.

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See also:

25 Apr 00 | Business
eBay outshines Compaq
27 Oct 99 | The Company File
Compaq beats forecasts
08 Sep 99 | The Economy
Argos - an invitation to 'treat'
17 Jun 99 | The Company File
Major revamp for Argos
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