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Amazon refuses Touchpad refunds after price slash frenzy

HP will cough, but you have to open the box ...

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Seemingly alone among UK retailers, Amazon is refusing to refund people who bought an HP Touchpad just before the price dropped, instead referring them directly to HP.

Not that Amazon did that very quickly, making buyers wait as much as two weeks while it considered the matter and competitors including Play.com, Tesco, Argos and even Amazon's own US arm have coughed up the difference without significant comment.

When HP announced it was going to kill the WebOS-based tablet, the price was immediately cut to $99 (or £99 in the UK). That led to a rush of bargain hunters besieging online, and physical, stores to snap up the stocks of the tablet. Retailers struggling to fulfill the sudden demand, and fending off disappointed latecomers, also had to deal with the unfortunate few who had bought a tablet in the previous few days, and those who paid full price in anticipation of the forthcoming cut.

The previous buyers are indeed few in number, but it seems a lot of people rushed out and paid the list price (or close to it) on the premise that they would later get a refund. Unless the refund has been promised such buyers are on dodgy legal ground – they bought a product at an agreed price and (in the UK at least) a later price cut is no grounds for legally returning the goods.

But in fact the retailers (presumably with the support of HP) have been very reasonable in refunding the difference, with the visible exception of Amazon UK. Despite taking two weeks to respond to buyers' questions Amazon UK is now saying that it will provide a full refund if the goods are returned unused (as per usual Amazon policy), but won't make up the price cut – buyers will have to contact HP for that.

Getting the money out of HP requires registering on a website, and providing details about the tablet which can only be garnered by opening the box, which worries some buyers who want to maintain the option of a full return to Amazon if the HP refund doesn't work out.

Managing the sudden price cut has caused confusion throughout the delivery chain. Even HP itself managed to accuse the German company to which they had outsourced their own refund scheme of fraudulently asking for customers' bank account details. The site was spotted by PreCentral who asked HP if it was a scam as they could see no reason for the information requested. HP responded that it was indeed a scam, but then got back in touch the following day to explain that it was being run by an outsourcing partner and thus entirely legitimate.

HP has done a remarkable job of working with retailers to get refunds to customers, despite the fact that a significant proportion of the company had no idea the announcement was coming. The question is why Amazon spent two weeks telling customers nothing, and then told them to get in touch with HP. We've asked, but are still awaiting a reply. ®

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