Amazon chaos as pricing glitch saw products sell for as little as 1 cent

15 Dec 2014

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A Northern Irish pricing software company is dealing with dozens of angry retailers after a software glitch saw customers buy products for as little as 1 cent in the space of an hour.

The glitch which affected retailers during an arguably peak time of Christmas shopping, between 7 – 8pm on Friday, 12 December, saw those using the Repricer Express tool saw their livelihoods slip away as customers pounced on the obvious glitch, according to the BBC.

The software is designed to change prices of goods depending on demand so as to keep up with the general trends of the market.

While not directly responsible for the error, Amazon had to step in to make sure that the products bought in error were cancelled so as to cause as little harm as possible to retailers, many of which include small sole traders whose loss of margins would seriously damage their business.

 ‘We can’t even work it out’

However, the Derry-based company who designed the software, and whose website says it is ‘risk free and safe in every way’ had to make a public apology with its chief executive Brendan Doherty issuing a statement saying, "We managed to get the problem resolved so that any new prices going to Amazon were correct within about an hour of the problem being reported.

"It took a further few hours to get incorrect prices reverted to their original prices where possible. Amazon have assured us that seller accounts will not be penalised for this issue."

One retailer speaking to The Guardian claimed yesterday that the glitch could have cost him as much as stg£100,000 but despite frantic efforts to shut down his site and cancel orders, stg£30,000-worth of goods had been marked as dispatched, which under Amazon’s terms cannot be cancelled.

Re-counting the stressful period, Martin le Corre of MB Housewares said, “We got a call from a competitor to say ‘do you realise all your listings at a penny?’ By the end of the hour, we had 1,600 orders. People were buying 10, 50, 100 copies of everything. It is stg£50,000, stg£60,000, stg£100,000 of stock; we can’t even work it out.”

Amazon store image via Shutterstock

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Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com