By Claire Reilly

Since launching its e-commerce venture last week, Harvey Norman has come under scrutiny for the pricing of products that is able offer online. Earlier this week, went over the website’s terms and conditions and examined just what the online prices meant for consumers and franchisees.

Also tied up in this was the fine print of Harvey Norman’s Best Price Guarantee. Essentially, the guarantee ensures Harvey Norman will match the price offered by a competitor on a specific product – either before or after purchase.

However, the Guarantee does not allow for price matching with grey importers (which rules out JB Hi-Fi’s direct imported camera range) or online stores that have no physical presence in Australia – which brings into question Canon’s direct-to-consumer online store and Winning Appliance’s online offering, Appliances Online, and certainly rules out Gerry Harvey’s arch-nemesis, Kogan.

The question remains whether Harvey Norman can claim to offer the “best price” if its guarantee rules out many of the channels that are now operating in today’s varied retail marketplace.

Current put this very question to Ben McIntosh, the head of Harvey Norman’s Computer Division, asking whether the Best Price Guarantee was still competitive or just a lame duck. Speaking about the company’s pricing policy, McIntosh insisted that Harveys would always do its best to match any legitimate pricing.

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“Our directive to all our franchisees and our suggestion is that we do our best to match all pricing,” said McIntosh. “Fine print like that [the conditions on the Best Price Guarantee] protects us from grey importers and eBay sellers, and makes sure that when we’re matching prices and beating prices that it is actually a legit product that we’re competing with.

“If you read the guarantee prices of all retailers, you’ll find small print all over the place. So we’re certainly not alone there.

“There’s always going to be grey areas with regards to different products available in the market place. But I can assure you, Harvey Norman will at all times make sure that the product we source, the pricing we offer and the pricing we beat is the best we can possibly do in the market – with all the challenges that that faces.

“Customers can be guaranteed that if they’re buying something that we have, we will beat that price as long as it’s legit and it’s from a source that we can actually verify,” he added. “I’ll continually update that pricing guarantee as we move forward and as we change and update our offering, and source new products.”