Changes to prices advertised online: Analysis of business practices and the legal framework in Canada


Maryse Guénette


Option consommateurs




Recent U.S. studies have concluded that the prices advertised online are not always the same for everyone. Online merchants will often continually change the prices they advertise on their websites. They may also personalize prices using consumer data generated from those who visit their website. To better understand these harmful commercial practices, Option consommateurs conducted a field investigation on eight Canadian websites. Additionally, online merchants were interviewed about their advertising practices, and a survey was conducted on Canadian consumers.

The findings showed different prices advertised on six of the eight websites, or in 13.6% of cases. Online merchants offered very little explanation about their online price display practices, but suggested the prices they advertise can vary depending on the location of the consumer. All companies acknowledged that they use the personal information of consumers to personalize the consumer experience, which does not exclude adjusting online prices based on personal information. Option consommateurs recommends further study on this issue. OC also recommends that effective measures be put in place to inform consumers of these practices, and ensure that online vendors obtain valid consent before collecting consumer data.

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OCA Funded Research
This research received funding support through the Office of Consumer Affairs' Contributions Program.

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Source: Consumer Policy Research Database

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