Elkjøp, Elektronikk | Races against widespread price drop at Elkjøp and Power:

The goods are identical in practice, but the price can vary enormously. The Consumer Council is now taking a hard line against the electronics giants.

At Elkjøp there is a TV called Samsung UE65TU7175. It is difficult to find out what it costs in other stores. Websites like prisjakt.no and prisguiden.no only give one search result: Elkjøp, where the TV costs 7990 crowns.

A comparable TV is the Samsung UE65TU7075, but it is only sold by Elkjøp’s competitor Power. The price is 9,999 crowns.

There is really only one difference between the two TVs, which is that the color of the support is slightly different. Otherwise the specifications are identical.

The two electricity chains have clear ambitions to have the best price on the market. But if each of them has just one of the two very similar products, you won’t be able to compare the price.

– This is misleading, says Gunstein Instefjord, consumer policy director of the Consumer Council.

Have you experienced something similar? Contact the Nettavisen journalist here.

(After Nettavisen approached us, Power adjusted the price of the above-mentioned TV. We will come back to that)

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– Makes price matching impossible

In the Danish TV program Kontant, a former employee of El-Giganten (which corresponds to Elkjøp in Norway) tells about a widespread practice with different names for similar products:

– It’s the same product, but a letter or number has been changed, plus a small, insignificant detail. So you cannot use a price match, says the employee, which is anonymized in the TV program.

The technical specifications of the TVs mentioned above are identical. But the support leg of one TV is titanium gray, the other is black. In the Danish documentary, Samsung confirms that the two TVs are identical, except for the color.

Because the product number of the TVs is different, even though the product is almost identical, a lot of research is needed to compare the price. Normally this is done with one keystroke on online services such as prisjakt.no or prisguiden.no.

– Unnecessarily difficult

It is a well-known phenomenon that products with similar specifications do not appear in the same price comparison, confirms Are Vittersø, Norwegian manager at Prisjakt.no:

– The size is hard to say, but it’s a shame it has to be. This makes it unnecessarily difficult for the consumer. Then you have to dive deeper into the specifications to find out if there are any differences. The consumer shouldn’t need that, says Vittersø.

– How will it affect consumers who want to compare prices?

– Consumers miss out on this. This is nothing new and it occurs in a variety of segments. But the stores can’t blame it, it’s the manufacturers who check this, says Vittersø.

– Are there methods by which the prize robots discover that the products are similar?

– We use the EAN code (barcode), that’s what you need to match. And each code is unique to each product. So if the products are the same, but with different EANs, transparency in price is avoided. You then have to do a lot of research to dive down far enough to find any differences, and then the prices don’t get the same competition as fully comparable products.

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The same washing machine – two different names

Even when it comes to white goods, there are many products with article numbers that only have one of the chains.

A Black Week sample showed that Elkjøp and Power priced an expensive Miele washing machine. It’s roughly the same price, but different product names.

Comparison is a challenge. The format of the specifications is completely different in the two stores. To find out if the washing machines were the same, we first made a price comparison which showed very correctly that with the exception of Power and Elkjøp respectively, only Miele sells the machine.

If we check the product description on the Miele pages, the correspondence matches almost 100 percent between WWI860, which Power sells, and WEI875WCS NDS, which Elkjøp sells.

– There are no two identical machines, says Espen Tho, Sales Director at Miele Norway.

As with the TV above, there are some color details that are different, and drum lights all in one. But the functionality is 100 percent the same. And that’s why you can’t compare the price of the two on prisjakt.no or prisguiden.no.

– Destructive and a getaway

– We saw this emerge. It is an outing, completely obvious, and something the consumer loses to, says Gunstein Instefjord in the Consumer Council.

A simple price comparison, which is good and desirable, becomes difficult and even impossible in the worst case, he says.

– This has probably also evolved because price comparison in a digital reality has become easier.

But the result is that if the practice is used to the maximum, the retailer is the sole provider of a product, Instefjord notes:

– Competition is weakened because the manufacturer and importer can charge a higher price as the sole supplier of a product. This is therefore detrimental to the competition and an outing.

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– Not the same machines

According to Miele, the washing machines are different enough to have different names, even though the technical specification is the same. There are several design series:

– One is «White edition» and the other «Chrome edition». It is normal that we have different article numbers for different design series, says Espen Tho from Miele.

– When we checked today, at Elkjøp and Power, eight of Miele’s ten washing machines had a product ID, which meant they were only available in one of the stores. These are all different machines?

– There are different washing machines, says Tho.

– So as customers, can we trust that the machines you sell at Elkjøp are different from the ones you sell at Power?

– Yes.

– Why doesn’t Miele sell multiple machine models with the same name in different electricity chains?

– Miele produces a wide range of machines for the European market. The different chains opt for range and models.

– How does Miele assess the customer’s ability to weigh up prices if the chains do not have goods with the same product name?

– All the different Miele models can be found on our websites, where the customer can compare the specifications of the products, says Espen Tho.

But then you first have to check the Miele website to see if the products are similar, and then you can compare the prices between the different but comparable products. It’s a comprehensive task – Miele sells about 50 different washing machines in Norway.

– Worthless and misleading

What about price promises, which many stores work with – does the product number have to be the same to claim compensation if the store has a price guarantee?

According to the Consumer Council, the similarity in the product should determine whether a price promise can be kept, not the product name.

– Our clear-cut approach is that when players make a price promise, decide specifications and functionality. If there is the same manufacturer and specification and no noticeable difference, we expect a price promise to apply, says Instefjord.

– But what if the store rejects such a claim?

– Robotic-based price promises are worthless if this is anything other than misleading marketing. Otherwise it is worthless and misleading.

Force changed the price

Both Elkjøp and Power argue against Nettavisen that they choose the products based on what the manufacturers offer – why they end up with so many nearly identical, yet slightly different products, we don’t get good answers.

After Nettavisen contacted the chain’s CEO in Norway, Power reduced the price of the Samsung TV to the same price as Elkjøp. The chain denies avoiding price comparison by having different product names:

– This is not something Power is doing to set a different price from our competitors, or to confuse customers. We want the opposite: to be as cheap as possible and to make it easy for customers to shop, says Siri Røhr-Staff, communications manager at Power.

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But color or design differences can differentiate product names, she says:

– In some cases, the customer is willing to pay more for certain design details, but our policy is that if the specifications are the same, we should also be roughly equal to our competitors in price. That is why we should have applied the same prices for these products in the cases you are pursuing. We’ve been in it now and adjusted.

Power wants the price robot to link two different product numbers if the specifications are the same, says Røhr-Staff.

– Until that feature is in place, we have introduced new internal price comparison routines so that it is now also compared by specifications, avoiding situations you refer to here

– We understand it’s not easy

Elkjøp also explains the differences in product codes with design and market adaptations, claiming that the goal is that comparison of products is easy.

– According to the Consumer Council, it is easier to set a different price for different products than the competitor, because the comparison is demanding for the customer. Do you this to avoid price comparison? If not, why not?

– When we market our products, thorough evaluations of the price picture of comparable products in the market are always carried out. The assessment then takes place on the basis of specifications and not on the basis of article codes. We understand that it is not always easy for our customers, which is why we believe that it is very positive that there are good price comparison services nowadays, says Madeleine Schøyen Bergly, communications manager at Elkjøp Norway, in an email to Nettavisen.

– What is the explanation for the fact that almost no Miele washing machines have the same name on Power and Elkjøp?

– We strive to price products based on specifications and not product codes. Miele has a global strategy around series and specifications. In addition to our own models, we have included all available Miele market models.

– The Consumer Council also believes that a price promise should apply for the same functionality and specification from the same manufacturer – even with deviating product names. Does it do that?

– We do not control all derivative models that exist from all suppliers in the market. That said, we always have to be competitive on price and we strive to match these models when we know about them, says Madeleine Schøyen Bergly.

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