No question, online shopping has made our lives easier. But there are also experts who are critical of the data-gathering frenzy of the retail giants on the net. Large shops not only evaluate the click behavior of the users, but also track the hardware with which their customers drive the pages — in order to then adjust the prices.
This result was reached last year, among other things, by a Research by the SWR magazine “Market Check”. According to this, Apple users would pay higher prices in part because they are considered by the corporations to be more cash-rich. Amazon later denied this, but admitted it that prices are actually adjusted for customers.
Consumer Centre sharply criticises dynamic pricing
According to media reports Users who shop via the app sometimes have to reach deeper into their pockets: mobile users are apparently insinuated that they do not even bother to compare prices.
Experts refer to the phenomenon of individual pricing as “dynamic pricing”. Consumer advocates are alarmed. “If a digital footprint is responsible for my pricing, then it is highly non-transparent,” explains Kathrin Körber from the Lower Saxony Consumer Centre in an interview with Tech Stalking Germany.
If a digital footprint is responsible for my pricing, then it is highly non-transparent.
In addition, a price comparison is no longer possible, since no one knows whether a product is currently being offered cheaply or expensively, explains Körber.
At the consumer centres, customers who report different prices on different devices report again and again — and feel deceived.
Other factors, such as time of day, can also have an impact on product prices. Those who shop online in the evenings and on weekends sometimes pay more. Background: Users then take more time to compare more expensive purchases.
How to fight back against too high prices
However, consumers are by no means helpless at the mercy of these rollercoaster prices: “There are ways to protect themselves, at least in part, from excessively high prices. For example, it can help to delete cookie files regularly, or to use the incognito mode of the internet browser, so that the online shops do not immediately receive all the data about me,” advises Körbe.
With cookies, websites store your visits and thus know which products you have searched for or viewed during the last page visits. This allows the shop to assess how badly you need a product or how financially strong you are — for example, if you have increasingly compared expensive smart TVs.
On various websites you can now find tips to fight back against “big data” collections. So it could help to use the internet browser rather than the app of the corresponding shop when shopping with the smartphone.
“Even if the online shops do not know any names, addresses or telephone numbers, the digital profile of the customers is absolutely glassy and is used by the websites to their advantage,” says Körber.
Most online shops keep their heads down on the subject. Both the online giant Amazon and the Federal Association of Online Retailers have so far left unanswered requests from our editorial staff.
Supermarkets are also relying on digital price tags
Another way to bypass the price madness of online retailers is to use comparison portals. Because in competition with other shops it can happen that you get a product cheaper via the link of such a comparison page than if you are looking for it directly at the shop.
The so-called roller coaster prices are now also gaining ground in the offline world. For example, more and more supermarkets are switching to digital price tags in order to be able to adjust prices via computer control if necessary. In the future, the milk in the refrigerated shelf may be more expensive than in the morning. Consumer advocates consider this approach by retailers to be non-transparent.
“There are already more and more offers from brick-and-mortar supermarkets, which means that with the help of coupons, selected products become cheaper for some consumers. For example, parents of children could get sweets cheaper or people who buy many sports products could get an Discount on fruit. There are already no limits to the imagination here,” Körbe complains.
Intransparent pricing also in supermarkets
Körber believes that it is inevitable that customers will be happy to accept such coupons or advertising deals. After all, everyone has to pay attention to their wallet and therefore wants to bet on offers. But the information it provides companies with leads to more personalized advertising, and thus to other non-transparent prices, from the point of view of critics.
This article appeared on Tech Stalking in February 2019. It has now been re-examined and updated.