Best Buy (BBY) has settled a Connecticut lawsuit that accused it of advertising lower prices on some items on its website than at in-store kiosks, then overcharging customers at the stores.
The consumer electronics retailer did
not admit wrongdoing as part of the 2007 lawsuit's settlement, filed Monday in Hartford Superior Court.
It agreed to pay $399,000 to Connecticut's government general fund and reimburse affected customers for the difference between the online prices and the higher in-store kiosk prices they were charged.
The number of customers and amount to which they might be entitled was not immediately known Tuesday, but the company agreed to post information on the doors of each Connecticut store for potential claimants.
The Tale of Two Websites
The lawsuit stems from complaints in 2007 from several customers who told Blumenthal's office that they spotted deals on Best Buy's website, then were charged higher prices in the stores based on a lookalike internal website used in the kiosks.
Since the lawsuit stems from alleged incidents at state locations, only people who purchased items in Connecticut Best Buy branches would qualify for restitution, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said.
"It was like a tale of two websites," Blumenthal said Tuesday. "In essence, the alleged scheme lured consumers into stores with low Internet prices, only to find higher prices displayed on in-store kiosks. This settlement rightfully returns money to consumers and taxpayers."
Best Buy said in a statement that it took action in 2007 to ensure claims from 16 affected consumers it has identified were resolved.
"Our commitment to helping consumers has not wavered throughout this experience, and we will continue to ensure they have the best information in hand when they shop with Best Buy," according to the statement. "Starting in January 2011, our stores in Connecticut will post a notice, calling on any Connecticut customers who believe they were affected by what appeared on Best Buy's kiosks before March 2007 to ask the store for a claim form."
The Richfield, Minn.-based retailer said in 2007 that it retrained some employees after discovering some customers did not receive the lower prices they should have. It said that in general, however, the in-store kiosks were a valuable tool to help customers get information about products and availability at particular stores.
Claim forms for Connecticut customers who believe they were affected can be found at Best Buy locations statewide, or can be downloaded from the state Attorney General's Office website at www.ct.gov/ag.