Dell sued over alleged monitor ripoffs

US technology company Dell ripped off consumers who purchased a monitor with their computer, the Australian consumer watchdog has claimed.

In a Federal Court lawsuit filed on Friday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission accuses Dell's local arm of lying regarding the price of its monitors.

From August 2019 to December 16, 2021, Dell Australia misled consumers about the savings of purchasing a monitor with a desktop, laptop or notebook, the ACCC said.

"We have commenced these proceedings because we are concerned that Dell's presentation of allegedly inflated discounts meant some consumers may have added monitors to their purchase which they may not have otherwise bought, or which they could have bought more cheaply from another section of Dell's website," ACCC commissioner Liza Carver said.

When a monitor add-on was selected, a higher price in strikethrough was shown reflecting what was claimed to be a large saving, the watchdog said.

In its lawsuit, the ACCC argued that the monitors did not cost this strikethrough price when sold individually, and that the add-on price was actually more expensive than the stand-alone price.

These types of cases, where businesses are accused of misleading consumers through "was/now" pricing, were a priority for the ACCC, Ms Carver said.

"Businesses should be well aware of their legal requirements and should have effective compliance programs in place to prevent this type of consumer harm."

The alleged ripoff occurred at a time when many families were in COVID lockdowns and making online purchases of equipment to work and study from home, Ms Carver said.

"While the total number of misled consumers is unknown, we believe many thousands of consumers were sold an add-on monitor which was advertised with a representation that an inflated discount applied."

A spokesperson from Dell attributed the incorrect prices to an "error" which affected around 2100 customers across the two-and-a-half year period.

"Due to an error in Dell's pricing processes, there was incorrect information displayed on our website about the pricing and savings associated with certain monitors," they said.

"We have fully cooperated with the ACCC throughout their investigation, have been working with impacted customers to provide appropriate refunds plus interest and are taking steps to improve our pricing processes to ensure this sort of error does not happen again."

In the lawsuit, the consumer watchdog is seeking penalties, consumer redress, compliance orders and its legal costs.