Dell Australia has been found guilty of misleading consumers over the price of some of its products, admitting that the discount prices listed on its site for monitors were often fake or inaccurate.

The Federal Court ruled by consent that Dell Australia made false and misleading representations on its website from August 2019 to December 2021 regarding the prices of add-on monitors and in the “strikethrough” prices listed on its website.

The situation occurred when a consumer selected a desktop, laptop or notebook on the Dell Australia website, and were then shown several compatible monitors and presented with an offer of “bundling” one of these in the purchase with the computer, typically for a discounted price.

The monitor was often shown with a higher “strikethrough” price that had been replaced with the discounted one, aiming to represent a significant saving if the items were bundled together.

But Dell Australia has admitted that the “strikethrough” prices listed were not typically what the monitors were sold for during most of the relevant period, and that in some examples the add-on price of the product was more expensive than if the consumer had simply purchased it by itself from the same company.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) instituted the court proceedings against Dell in late 2022.

“We brought these proceedings because we were concerned that Dell Australia had misled its consumers with false representations about its pricing and discounts,” ACCC Commissioner Liza Carver said.

“In some cases, consumers paid more for the add-on monitor advertised as ‘discounted’ than they would have paid if they had bought it as a stand-alone product, which is shocking.

“As the Court noted, price and discounts are key differentiating factors for consumers deciding between product offers, and this case reinforces the importance of retailers displaying genuine ‘was/now’ pricing and accurate savings.”

The court also ruled that Dell Australia had made misleading statements about the discounted price of the add-on monitors on its website, through lines such as “total savings”, “discounted price” and “get the best price for popular accessories when purchased with this product”.

Dell Australia sold 5,300 add-on monitors worth more than $2 million during the relevant period and has now agreed to refund or partially compensate 4,250 people impacted by this.

The company will also likely face penalties and costs over the issue, with submissions on these matters to be heard by the court at a later date.

“This case serves as an important reminder to businesses that suggestive upselling or bundling of products must not mislead consumers to the deal they are getting,” Carver said.

Dell Australia has also been ordered to appoint an independent compliance professional to review its compliance program and to issue a corrective notice to all consumers that purchased a monitor from them during this time.

Dell Australia is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dell Technologies and is headquartered in New South Wales.

Dell Technologies is a US-based tech company that operates globally and develops, sells, repairs and supports computers and other tech products.