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Price fluctuations complicated online bargain hunting

04 December 2012 - 12:51 by Simon Crisp

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Millions of people across the UK are turning to safe shopping online this week, to prepare for Christmas and get all the gifts they need for the festive season.

Aside from the convenience and variety, the main reason that people use e-commerce sites to shop is because they expect prices to be lower than on the high street.

While this is generally true, one thing which some people might not realise is that prices can fluctuate quite wildly online, to a greater degree than they might at bricks and mortar outlets.

One of the biggest indicators of this has been the shifting price of the Furby toy, which is expected to be a big seller this year.

Its recommended retail price is around 60, but a cavalcade of sellers on Amazon have been offering it for significantly more, while also trying to undercut one another, when it comes to different items.

Part of the problem is that many of the prices are controlled by mathematical algorithms, which change how much something costs depending on the demand for it and its availability.

This does lead to bidding wars conducted automatically, which result in items being sold for a fraction of their normal value. On the other hand, it can also cause sought after products to become particularly expensive during peak periods.

It is worth pointing out that Amazon itself does not operate along these lines, so if you are buying something direct from its official outlet, via safe shopping online, then you need not be concerned that it will fluctuate further down the line.

Of course, there are plenty of competing online retailers and many high street chains who offer e-commerce services, so if you want to buy a product for the lowest price, you can compare the options with ease.