Womenswear retailer Sportsgirl has suffered a major website crash following on online flash sale, with the consumer watchdog warning businesses can be fined for advertising prices that consumers cannot access.
My Business understands that the retailer sent an EDM to its customer database around 3.20pm on Monday, 2 July, advertising a 50 per cent sale on “already reduced” items.
Yet several consumers reported being unable to access to the website, or having limited access, almost immediately after the EDM was sent.
In some cases, customers were able to put items in their online shopping cart, but technical issues denied them the ability to complete the transaction.
The website was unavailable when My Business tried to access it around 6pm that night, with an error message citing unusually high traffic volumes as behind the technical difficulties.
Repeated requests for comment from Sportsgirl went unanswered, although a spokesperson initially claimed they were not aware of any issues.
Customers didn’t hold back though, with many taking to social media to vent their frustration at the situation.
“Omg u [sic] can get on the website when Sportgirl [sic] goes into sale. So annoying. Every time,” one would-be customer wrote on the retailer’s Facebook page.
“Would seriously like to know how any sales are going through with the website being an absolute mess. Crashing every 10 seconds and back to square 1!” said another.
“I would really enjoy spending my money on this sale if the bloody site worked!” grumbled a third.
The situation serves as a warning for all businesses that sell online. In addition to leaving customers disgruntled, website infrastructure unable to cope with an advertised sale can potentially see a business fall foul of the law.
An ACCC spokesperson told My Business that intention plays no part in whether a business misleads or deceives consumers.
“Depending on the circumstances, it may amount to misleading or deceptive conduct if an online business advertises goods at prices which consumers cannot access due to technical issues,” the spokesperson said.
“Businesses should take appropriate steps to promptly rectify any mistakes and ensure that consumers do not suffer any detriment.”
The spokesperson admitted that, in some instances, a business’ liability under Australian Consumer Law (ACL) could be mitigated by a legitimate technical malfunction.
“However businesses also need to ensure that they have appropriate systems and procedures in place to limit these situations arising in the first place.”
Fast food chain Domino’s faced a similar problem last year, when customers were left wondering whether a special promotion was even legitimate after being unable to access the website.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.