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The Christmas gifts that change price daily on the internet: Cost fluctuates by 10% as retailers try to ensure they are the cheapestFigures show that prices of certain products can change by the hourConsumer groups say that the price changes are 'unfair' on customers



00:18 GMT, 10 December 2012

Christmas shoppers face paying too much when buying presents online – with prices fluctuating by as much as 10 per cent a day, research reveals.

The figures show that instead of prices being fixed unless there is a sale, as many assume, they can vary by the hour as retailers try to ensure they are the cheapest.

It suggests that getting the best price when shopping online is a matter of luck and customers could end up paying a lot more if they buy at the wrong time.


Missing out: Consumer groups say that the price changes are unfair on customers who could be missing out by paying higher prices

Missing out: Consumer groups say that the price changes are unfair on customers who could be missing out by paying higher prices

Consumer groups said it was ‘unfair’ on customers, most of whom have no idea that they could be paying more for a certain product than they would have on another day or even a few hours earlier.

Analysis of the prices of ten different gifts on Amazon by the Daily Mail found that six fluctuated over four days.

The price of a Tefal Jamie Oliver frying pan, perhaps not the most traditional present, went from 31.78 to 35 in a day – an increase of 10 per cent.


John Lewis racked up record sales last week as Christmas shoppers flocked to its department stores and website.

The company raked in 142million, its biggest ever weekly haul and 15 per cent higher than in the same week last year.

The total included more than 42million of internet sales, with a record 7.3million resulting from last week’s ‘Cyber Monday’ online shopping boom.

The store said toys were ‘flying off the shelves’ amid strong demand for Lego, board games and scooters.

Andrew Murphy, of John Lewis, said: ‘We are delighted to have achieved these sales records, particularly in a market which is still economically challenging.’

And a Lego Star Wars set went from 17.49 to 18.74 – a 7 per cent rise. Jon McKnight, founder of the Consumer Inquisitor website, said: ‘Your average consumer has no idea that they could be unwittingly paying more as they think prices are fixed.

‘Only anoraks would be able to monitor the changing price.’

During the course of the research, Amazon regularly adjusted prices so they were the same or cheaper than other retailers including John Lewis and Tesco.

It declined to comment on its sales practices. Online retailers use sophisticated computer programmes to track competitors’ prices so they can undercut them.

Sometimes the price is only cheaper by a few pence so the retailer tops the list of the best deals on price comparison websites, according to experts.

The retailers also attempt to force each other into out-of-stock positions as they push prices down. They then offer their goods at the original price to make more money.

Spend, spend, spend: The figures suggest that getting the best price for your Christmas presents online could be a matter of luck

Spend, spend, spend: The figures suggest that getting the best price for your Christmas presents online could be a matter of luck

Rafi Mohammed, a US-based pricing consultant, said: ‘People are starting to realise: “I can’t trust the price I’m getting, because it might change.”’

Mr McKnight added: ‘While it’s true that online traders can charge what they like – legally – for the things they sell, surely they have a moral duty not to rip consumers off, particularly in this age of austerity.


Tablet computers, including Apple’s iPad mini, Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7, are selling at the rate of up to one a second, it is claimed.

John Lewis said its sales of tablets are up 250 per cent year-on-year, with the figure expected to grow in the next fortnight.

Last week’s ‘Cyber Monday’ saw tablet sales of one per second.

Firms want to get their tablets into families’ hands because they guarantee profits through the sale of film downloads, eBooks, music and games.

Matt Leeser, of John Lewis, said: ‘This is the first Christmas we have seen real rivals to Apple on different platforms.’

'The fact that traders are charging different prices for the same goods at different times, without warning, is simply unfair to the decent, hard-working people who make up the majority of their customers.’

He said traders should be forced to put statements on their websites tracking price changes over time so consumers could trust them more.

An Amazon spokesman said: ‘We consistently work toward maintaining competitive prices on everything we carry. Every customer is presented with the same offers at any given time and can choose to purchase from Amazon directly or from third party Marketplace sellers who set their own prices.’

Stores are cashing in on demand from parents for this year’s must-have Christmas toy, the Furby, by pushing up prices.

Tesco increased the price to 54.97 from 48.99 a month ago, while some online retailers are charging more than 100 including delivery.