Connecticut AG investigating Best Buy sales tactics

The attorney general for the state of Connecticut has opened an investigation into sales tactics used by retailing giant Best Buy that allegedly involve bait-and-switch pricing.

The Hartford Courant has reported that some customers looking to confirm special prices for notebook computers shown on Best Buy's public Web site were told those prices were no longer available, and shown a product listing on the Web while at a Best Buy store that seemingly confirmed that statement. But the site those customers were shown in the store was actually an intranet site that didn't always show the pricing that was available on Best Buy's public site, the company confirmed to the Courant.

Therefore customers who had investigated pricing online for various PCs could have wound up paying more than they should have for PCs that were on sale through BestBuy.com, according to the report. A customer who spoke to the Courant said that until a manager intervened, a Best Buy salesman would not let him buy a Toshiba laptop for the lower price advertised on BestBuy.com, pointing instead to a higher price on the intranet site.

A Best Buy representative told CNET News.com that store employees are trained to use the public Web site, not the intranet, to check pricing when a customer inquires about an online price. The representative said the cases in Connecticut were due to "employee error" and that sales associates are being reminded to use the external site.

Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general in Connecticut, told the Courant he was troubled by the fact that consumers bear the responsibility for pointing out the difference in prices between the public Web site and the store's intranet. The Best Buy representative said the company was cooperating with the investigation.

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