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Kodak caves over camera cock-up

Camera maker coughs up to avoid legal exposure

Online retailers will be going through their auto-response emails to customer orders with a legal toothcomb following Kodak's decision to head off legal action and supply up to 2,500 £329 digital cameras for just £100 each.

Kodak's capitulation came as pressure mounted from PC Advisor readers who had taken Kodak up on its new year 'Special Deal', when the company mistakenly offered its DX3700 camera for £229 less than its intended price.

This represents a u-turn for the camera manufacturer. It had initially fobbed off claims of contractual obligation to supply, despite sending emails to customers which everyone bar Kodak thought confirmed the order.

With the first case against Kodak due to come before the county courts, the company preferred to take a hit of possibly more than £600,000 rather than endure a hauling over some hot legal coals.

But although industry watchers were disappointed that the dispute never reached the precedent-setting status afforded by a court decision, consumer rights advocates hailed the company's climb-down as an important one.

"Kodak initially thought they could tough it out," said a spokesman for the Consumers Association. "But they've come under an awful lot of fire. In the future companies will be very careful before they start arm-twisting their customers. It would have been much better if they had acted sooner."

According to Andy Singleton, marketing director for online retailer Jungle, these are not completely uncharted waters. Jungle changed the wording in its email responses a year ago from "confirming the order" to "confirming the receipt of order".
"We've been hit in the past," he said. "This way we're legally in the clear."

Rival online internet store Simply also sends customers an auto-response that makes it clear that the order has not yet been confirmed. "Once your order has been processed you will receive email confirming your order," reads the auto-response.

Kodak, in contrast, stated in its confirmatory email that payment would be duly billed to customer credit cards and that the message should be kept as a receipt of the purchase. "You will need to provide a copy of this message if you ever need warranty service," stated the email.

The message rounded off with: "You should also be aware that you have a right to cancel this contract if you wish, without stating any cause, by sending or delivering to us a notice in the form attached within seven working days beginning with the day on which the relevant goods are delivered to you."

To find out how PC Advisor readers turned the screws on Kodak and join the victory celebrationsclick here.


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