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N.J. Lawyer Plans Suit Over Best Buy’s $9.99 Price Flub; Law Prof Is Skeptical

Posted Aug 13, 2009 7:37 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Updated: Any consumers thinking about suing Best Buy for refusing to honor a listed price of $9.99 for a flat-screen TV should think again, according to one law professor.

But a New Jersey consumer lawyer has already done some thinking, and he plans to file a lawsuit today.

Best Buy’s website listed the 52-inch Samsung LCD high-definition TV for $9.99 for several hours yesterday, prompting some consumers to order as many as 10 sets and others to form a huge line outside one of the retailer’s stores in Alexandria, the Washington Post reports. Best Buy later said the advertised price was a mistake and it would be canceling any orders.

Best Buy’s announcement of the error pointed would-be buyers to a clause in one of its policies that says it does not have to stick to prices published by mistake.

McGeorge School of Law professor Brian Slocum told CBS13.com that the posting isn’t a case of false advertising or bait-and-switch. "I think false advertising would require some intent on the part of Best Buy," he said. "It's hard to think why they would have intent to mislead consumers in this way.”

To win a suit against Best Buy, consumers would have to prove the retailer had something to gain by posting the price at $9.99. Since the error was so glaring, it would be next to impossible to win in court, Slocum told CBS13.com.

That advice is not deterring lawyers with the Red Bank, N.J., law firm Carton & Rudnick. In a post at the firm’s New Jersey Lemon Law Lawyer Blog, lawyer Jonathan Rudnick urges anyone who tried unsuccessfully to purchase one of the TVs to call the firm for a free consultation.

Rudnick told the ABA Journal in an e-mail that he has had calls from unhappy consumers and he plans to file a lawsuit this morning. He says intent is not a requirement under New Jersey consumer fraud laws.

Updated at 9:10 a.m. CST to include Rudnick's plans to file suit. Corrected at 10:09 a.m. to reflect that the TV was an LCD model, not a plasma as reported by the Washington Post.

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