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Dell price glitch hits Asian customers

The PC maker's Asia-Pacific unit acknowledges that a mistake on its Web site allowed customers to order a notebook for one-third the actual price.

SINGAPORE--Dell Computer's Asia-Pacific unit acknowledged Wednesday a mistake on its Web site that allowed customers to order a notebook for one-third the actual price.

On Monday, Dell's Singapore and Malaysia Web site showed that its Inspiron 2500 G800ST/G900ST notebook, coupled with a 15-inch upgrade option, would cost $438 (778.68 Singapore dollars). The only problem is that Dell does not have a 15-inch option with that unit. The actual product retails with a 14-inch screen for $1,304.

One reader, who placed an order on Dell's Singapore Web site, told Singapore.CNET.com that he was shocked and extremely disappointed when told his order was "invalid."

"A day after making the purchase, I was told by Dell that there was a 'pricing and configuration error,'" he said.

In an e-mail, a Dell customer service representative wrote: "The 15-inch panel option (for the Inspiron 2500) is currently unavailable in Asia-Pacific. Further, this configuration error has led to a pricing discrepancy which has priced your Inspiron 2500 system incorrectly."

A Dell representative said the mistake was caused by a data entry error.

"As a result, a configuration that is not available in Asia-Pacific was offered on our online stores in Malaysia and Singapore at an incorrect price." He declined to reveal the number of customers affected.

The representative said that affected customers will be offered a 20 percent discount off the actual list price. "We apologize for problems experienced here and have taken this action as a gesture of good will to address the inconvenience caused to Dell customers."

He added that had payment actually exchanged hands, Dell would have shipped the units.

But Dell's apology and discount offer didn't satisfy at least one customer.

"It's very unfair...It was their mistake, but they can just get away with it by saying sorry," the customer said. "Why should I trust Dell or purchase their products when they don't take their business or customers seriously?"

Dell's mistake is at least the third one since the beginning of the year for its Asian customers. In February, for instance, a technical problem resulted in inaccurate pricing and configuration for a notebook listed on Dell's Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia Web sites--the Dell Inspiron 3800 C600ST notebook, originally priced around $1,388, was posted at $123.

In that case, Dell absorbed the costs and honored all orders for which payment exchanged hands.

Last fall, a pricing glitch at Dell's U.S. online store mistakenly allowed customers to order computers with two concurrent promotions.

Other e-commerce sites such as Amazon.com, Buy.com and Staples.com have dealt with similar problems.

CNET Singapore's Fran Foo reported from Singapore.