Consumer protectionMarket watchdogs reveal extreme price fluctuations for online products

The market watchdog for the digital world at the consumer association Brandenburg today published its results on dynamic price differentiation in online shopping. It shows that the vast majority of online retailers regularly and frequently adjust prices for parts of their product range.

These results are based on a secondary analysis and an empirical data survey. For the latter, tripuls media innovations GmbH was commissioned in early 2018 to monitor 1,133 product prices from 16 online retailers for 34 consecutive days.

These are the details:

  • Overall, 15 of the 16 examined online retailers regularly adjusted the prices for some of their products. Moreover, a share of 37 percent of all observed prices were volatile.

  • During the observation period, nearly two-thirds of these volatile prices were adjusted up to three times, a share of 36 percent was adjusted four to 15 times and 4 percent were adjusted even more frequently. In one case, 32 price changes were registered for one identical product.

  • Also, the different degrees of price adjustments revealed major differences. 30 percent of the volatile prices were more than doubled. Another extreme case indicated a price range of 220 Euros for a mobile phone from the retailer Mediamarkt.

  • In addition, the point in time was crucial for the price displayed online. In the morning, ATU car batteries or tires were up to 30 percent more expensive than in the afternoon the day before. Online pharmacies, such as DocMorris and Sanicare, combined price reductions with price increases for other items on specific days.

  • According to previous price studies, this lack of price transparency results in uncertainty among consumers and most of them consider it unfair.

Kirsti Dautzenberg, team leader of the market watchdog, noted: "Customers cannot tell whether they are saving money or paying more for their purchases. In addition, they no longer have a reliable point of price reference, against which they can measure the value of a given product."

Source: Market watchdog at the consumer association Brandenburg

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