December 16, 2014

‘Twas the week before Christmas and Amazon UK had a major pricing glitch


Around 2 PM on Friday, a third-party software glitch caused thousands of Amazon UK prices to drop to 1 pence. Sellers panicked. Worse, some of those same sellers reported that these orders were being fulfilled Monday afternoon, nearly 72 hours after the glitch.

“I have just had over 3,500 orders in less than 3 hours for 1 pence. If I cancel all these orders my account will be suspended. If I dispatch all these orders I’ll go bankrupt,” seller Mehboob Rasool wrote to Harry Cockburn of London Loves Business. “I can’t sell mattresses for 1 pence.”

“It’s very difficult to understand how this can have happened, thousands and thousands of pounds lost in minutes,” Craig Constantinides, chief executive of computer games retailer Go2Games, told Rupert Neate of The Guardian. “We have only had automated responses. No one will call us. A phone call would be nice, even it is just to say sorry. Amazon is going to stand very far back from all this. You would expect a juggernaut like Amazon to step in and help.”

It seems likely most customers know this was the result of an error or a hack. But sellers are frightened for the future of their companies, and understandably upset that Amazon UK has not responded to them directly.

Repricer Express, the third party, issued an apology for the error. The company’s CEO, Brendan Dohertysays Amazon “assured us that seller accounts will not be penalised for this issue.”

We’ll just leave this here: Amazon UK sold £4.3bn worth of goods in Britain last year, and paid only £4.2m in UK tax. And as we mentioned recently, it stole Christmas.


Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.