In a significant legal development, the Federal Court has ruled that Dell Australia must pay a substantial $10 million fine due to false and misleading representations made on its website regarding discounted prices for add-on computer monitors. The ruling follows enforcement proceedings initiated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Dell Australia, headquartered in New South Wales, acknowledged that it had deceived its customers by providing inaccurate pricing information for a range of monitors that could be bundled with desktops, laptops, or notebooks. The monitors were often advertised with a higher “strikethrough” price, implying significant savings if purchased along with other computer products.
The company confessed that it had exaggerated the discounts available to customers, as the monitors were not actually sold at the strikethrough price for the majority of the relevant period. This led many consumers to pay more than they would have if they had bought the monitor separately. An astonishing 5,300 monitors were sold to consumers with these inflated discounts.
Furthermore, Dell Australia admitted to misleading customers through various statements such as “Total Savings,” “Includes x percent off,” “Discounted Price,” and “Get the best price for popular accessories when purchased with this product.”
ACCC Commissioner Liza Carver underscored the significance of this ruling, stating, “This outcome sends a strong message to businesses that making false representations about prices or inflating discounts is a serious breach of consumer law and will attract substantial penalties. We took this action against Dell Australia because consumers rely on accurate information about prices and discounts to make purchasing decisions.”
Liza Carver also emphasized the need for caution among businesses when advertising discount pricing, to prevent any misleading information from swaying consumers’ purchasing choices.
Earlier in the year, the Federal Court ordered Dell Australia to take corrective measures, including offering refunds and issuing notices to all affected consumers, as well as reviewing its compliance program. Additionally, Dell Australia was instructed to contribute to the ACCC’s costs.
During the course of the legal proceedings, Dell Australia cooperated by acknowledging its breach of the Australian Consumer Law. The company collaborated with the ACCC on penalty and other orders and even began offering refunds to some consumers prior to the Court’s final decision.
Background information reveals that the ACCC initiated legal action against Dell Australia on November 4, 2022. In June 2023, the Federal Court, through mutual agreement, concluded that Dell Australia had indeed provided false and misleading information on its website regarding add-on monitor prices and corresponding “strikethrough” prices.