Student Budgets: Expert advice on how to avoid ‘price discrimination’ when online shopping.

  • Retail expert explains how to avoid ‘dynamic pricing’.
  • How your location and browsing history can set higher prices.
  • Mac owners typically pay more!

Being on a student budget can sometimes mean you can’t even afford to pay attention in class! And it definitely means you can’t afford to pay premium prices for products you need… Which is why it’s important to be informed when you think online retailers might be charging you a couple pounds more.

When shopping online, it’s often assumed that all consumers are being offered the same product for the same price, right? This, however, is not always the case. Online retailers have the ability to change product prices and offers based on things like your location, browser history and operating system. In fact, it’s common for big e-commerce retailers to display different offers and items according to a range of factors that can be discovered about you, the user.

‘Dynamic pricing’ (or price discrimination) is the practice of adjusting the price of a product or service to reflect changing market conditions. Essentially, it is charging higher prices at a time of greater demand. For example, some retailers use customers’ location and browsing history to vary the offers made available to a certain user: if you live in an area with a higher average income, you might see higher prices as compared to someone who resides in an area with a lower average income. The operating system you use also plays a role in what pops up on your screen – some websites have been accused of charging more to those who shop using an Apple Mac, as Mac users typically have a higher average household income.

Craig Larkin – founder of new online shopping website kerchingandwin.co.uk, where you can win prizes with your purchases,  has compiled some tips and tricks to help students avoid dynamic pricing:

Change your IP address (or type in different postscodes)

Retailers are able to spy your location using two methods: either you type in your postcode, or they obtain it using your IP address. If you live in a higher income area, try typing in a nearby postcode where you know the income level is lower. A slightly more complex method is to mask your IP address by setting up a VPN or proxy server. This doesn’t guarantee you’ll emerge with a better deal but at least you’ll be aware if the sites you frequent are guilty of price discrimination.

Browse using incognito mode or disable third-party cookies

By having a look through your browser cookies, retailers are able to effectively track your spending habits. Try shopping in your browser’s incognito or private mode or block third-party cookies. It may also be worth it to browse using one browser and make purchases on another if you’re particularly worried about dynamic pricing.

Check prices using a different device

Many sites offer different prices depending on whether you’re browsing on a Mac, Windows or mobile device such as an Android or iPhone. If you have another on hand, double check product prices on an alternate device.

Change your user agent

By changing your user agent, you can trick a webpage into thinking you’re using a different device or operating system. For example, if you have a Mac, you can see if you can get a better deal by pretending you’re ordering from a Windows system or mobile device.

Check other retailers

This one is relatively obvious but if you think you’re being conned by dynamic pricing, simply shop a different website. There are also a number of browser extensions you can download, which alert you when products or services are cheaper elsewhere to ensure you don’t miss out on deals and special product prices.

 

Kerching is the only website that allows users to win fantastic prizes by simply doing their online shopping as usual. Just create an account and find your favourite online retailer. Your credits are automatically applied whenever you make a qualifying purchase and you can then choose to spend them on any of Kerching’s 10+ prize draws, which have a combined value of thousands of pounds! When a draw is complete, you’ll receive an email so you can check if you’ve won. Winning rates are dependent on the popularity of the prize draws and shoppers can choose to enter the same draw as many times as they like, or spend their credit across multiple ones.

Users are able to shop across over 300 retailers from high street and popular attractions, to online marketplaces including Asda, Tesco, Very, eBay, Amazon, Groupon, Jet2, On the Beach, Haven and Travel Supermarket amongst others.

At its launch, Kerching’s prize draw includes £2,000 of TUI vouchers, various £100+ gift vouchers, games consoles and more.

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