Boohoo: Price differences for same clothes 'a genuine mistake'




  • In Business
  • 2021-04-07 23:04:29Z
  • By BBC
 

Identical clothing was sold at different prices across Boohoo's brands due to a "genuine mistake and not business practice", the retailer says.

The same coat was sold by Dorothy Perkins at £55 and Coast at £89 and the Coast item had the brand name cut off.

Joanna Sikora ordered a skirt from Karen Millen and found it had an Oasis label with that branding crossed out.

Boohoo said it had not realised its companies had bought the same items and branded and priced them differently.

It comes as the BBC was sent further examples of coats on the Oasis and Coast websites at different prices.

Jess, who asked us not to use her last name, spotted the khaki coats pictured, which have since been removed from both sites.

She said: "You buy a brand in good faith that what you are getting is exclusive to the company. I initially assumed that the previous instances were a slight mix up, however after finding these myself I now realise that this is common practice in Boohoo. It doesn't speak well for the company if fooling the customer is their main method for turning a profit."

Boohoo said these coats were part of an issue that arose when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The closure of non-essential stores to stop the spread of Covid saw thousands of High Street fashion chains shut their shops for good.

Boohoo bought up the online businesses of some of the fashion brands that went into administration.

Most recently, it bought Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton from Arcadia. It acquired Karen Millen and Coast in August 2019.

Retailers that were forced to close their doors cancelled their orders with suppliers, a statement from Boohoo said.

These suppliers then offered products they had already made for sale to other retailers that were still trading, it said.

Some of Boohoo's brands bought some of this excess stock to fill gaps in their ranges as clothing stock began to run down.

"Our mistake was not realising that some of our brands had purchased the same items from suppliers," the statement said.

"Therefore we failed to make sure prices were the same across our group of brands."

Boohoo said the problem affected "about 10 lines out of thousands", it was confident the issue was fixed and has apologised to customers.

Which brands does Boohoo own?

  • Boohoo and BoohooMan

  • Coast

  • Karen Millen

  • Dorothy Perkins

  • Warehouse

  • Oasis

  • Wallis

  • Burton

  • Debenhams

  • PrettyLittleThing

  • NastyGal

  • MissPap

It is not an offence for different retailers to sell the same item at different prices even if they are owned by the same company.

But "it could be misleading if consumers think they are buying a particular brand, when this is not the case," said Sylvia Rook, a lead officer from the Chartered Trading Standards institute.

"Consumers may expect that items from one retail outlet are superior to another, and therefore be willing to pay a premium for this," she said.

A trader could be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 if an advert misleads consumers and causes them, either to make a purchase they would not have made, or to pay a higher price," she explained.

Oli Townsend, assistant deals and features editor at MoneySavingExpert.com said irregular pricing was not unique to one group.

In 2019, an MSE investigation found shoppers were paying up to 34% more for the exact same item at Littlewoods compared to Very - even though both are owned by the same company.

Mr Townsend said: "There's a question of ethics when there's such a price disparity between retailers under the same parent company - especially when in some cases they may share the same warehouse, courier and returns department.

"These brands risk their customers feeling ripped off and losing trust in that brand."

He said MSE encouraged shoppers to do price comparisons online to make sure they were getting the best deal.

"But if some retailers are cutting off or obscuring the original brand name, it makes this difficult and puts consumers at a disadvantage," he said.

Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said customers would "understandably see this practice as dishonest".

He said: "Companies who switch items between brands for different prices and cover up or remove the previous label risk losing consumer trust."

Have you bought clothes from a Boohoo brand, only to see it priced cheaper under another Boohoo-owned business? Share your experiences. Email haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also get in touch in the following ways:

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