You ask me “what is strikethrough price or reference price?”? Imagine that Prime Day has just begun. You rush to Amazon in search of great deals. You find out that your smartphone sells for 200 Euros instead of 300 Euros. The price of 300 euros is the price crossed out.
Logically, the bigger the difference between the crossed out price and the sale price, the bigger the discount and the more money you’ll save. Except sometimes, often — too often, in fact — merchants “cheat.” They use different reference prices to artificially inflate the discount amount to make it more attractive to potential customers.
In this guide, we will show you how to check if a smartphone sold for 200 EUR instead of 300 EUR is available for 300 EUR or less before it goes on sale.
What is the fake strikethrough price?
In a report released in late May, UFC QUE Choisir studied a sample of 6,586 ads showing crossed-out prices. These deals come from a number of e-tailers, including (but not limited to) Amazon. And, of those 6,000+ ads, only 3.4% were genuine promotions.
So nine out of ten ads are crossed out with false prices. But how do you know that the crossed out price is fake? In France, the issue of banned prices is governed by law in a European directive called the “Omnibus”, which comes into force in May 2022.
The Omnibus Directive requires that price reductions be shown within one year on the basis of the lowest price charged by the seller in the 30 days preceding the implementation of the price reduction.
Basically, we take the example of a smartphone selling for 200 euros instead of 300 euros. Let’s say the promotion was created on July 11, 2023, specifically during Prime Day.
In order to comply with the provisions of the Consolidated Directive, the minimum price for this smartphone on Amazon cannot be lower than 300 euros between June 11, 2023 and July 11, 2023. Otherwise, it would mean that Amazon used a higher strikethrough price to inflate the amount of its discount.
Amazon is playing the game on paper
Apparently Amazon seems to be playing the game even though UFC Que Choisir has filed complaints against the e-commerce giant and seven other brands including Asos, La Redoute, Cdiscount, Rue du Commerce, E.Leclerc, Veepee and Zalando .
However, if we go to the Amazon France Flash Sale page and select the promotional offer, we can see an “i” icon next to the crossed out price.
If we hover over the icon, we can see the following message appear: “This is the lowest price for this product on Amazon.fr in the last 30 days before the price drop.”
So far so good, it complies with the Omnibus directive. So what’s the problem? The problem is, Amazon doesn’t always use the famously lowest price in the 30 days preceding the sale. This is where things get complicated.
Here, the prices referenced/crossed out are in compliance with the Omnibus Directive. / © Xiakeng
Several reference prices may dazzle you
I checked out several deals on Amazon’s flash sale page. And both show the same message above. Therefore, they all show the crossed-out price determined according to the composite order.
But I also looked at some deals outside of flash sales. These ads are not officially marked as promotions. But we have percentage discounts and crossed out prices. As a consumer, I tell myself this must be a promotion.
On these ads, you can see a different message when you hover over the “i” icon next to the crossed-out price. Amazon no longer talks about the lowest price in the past 30 days. No, we’re talking about the recommended price or the old price, or even the new price.
Here, Amazon uses the manufacturer’s suggested price (Samsung) as a reference price. Is this price higher than the “comprehensive” price? / © Xiakeng
In fact, if we take a look at the official Amazon website, we will find that the explanations on this page are rather confusing. On the one hand, we are told “For price reduction announcements, such as limited time sales, we display the latest lowest price for this product on Amazon.fr during the last 30 days before application. Reduced price.”
Well, that’s okay. This is the combined price. no problem. However, Amazon also explains that for “comparison purposes, products may display three types of reference prices: suggested price (manufacturer), old price (median price on Amazon over the past 90 days), and new price.”
On its official page, Amazon doesn’t explain what criteria it uses to distinguish offers with a “comprehensive” reference price from those without. / © Xiakeng
But why doesn’t Amazon always use the same reference price? Under what conditions does he use the “composite” price (ie the lowest price from the past 30 days) or one of the other three reference prices? We asked about Amazon France and Amazon Germany, but no reply.
How to check if your strikethrough price is real?
In any case, our recommendation is to use the rules set by the synthetic order to check the strike-out price of the promotion.
It’s easy to do. Just get the link to the Amazon ad you’re interested in. Access the keepa platform via a browser or via a dedicated app available on Android and iOS.
Paste your promotional product URL and view Amazon’s price history. Find the lowest prices in the 30 days before Prime Day. And check that the crossed out price that Amazon shows matches.
If it sticks, the strikethrough price won’t be inflated. If it doesn’t fit, the strikethrough price will be inflated. Then it’s up to you to decide if the promotion is worth it.
You can see the lowest prices on Amazon in the last 30 days on keepa. / © Xiakeng
Bonus Tip: Check Market Deals
It’s not just inflated strikethrough prices that can mislead you. We often find products sold by third-party sellers.
Amazon hosts sellers on its platform. We are talking about a market. In this particular case, the product may not be sold or shipped directly by Amazon, but by this third-party seller.
Generally speaking, this is rare during Prime Day. Even for offers from third-party sellers, products are usually at least fulfilled by Amazon. In this case, you have nothing to worry about. But, if not, one can easily check if the seller is reliable.
When I say reliable, I mostly mean you have to make sure it’s located within the EU. If your seller is based in China, you may need to worry about delays and fees due to returns or delivery issues.
In a nutshell, the EU provides two online platforms to check a seller’s VAT number and trade registration number:
You can find this information on the seller’s page on Amazon.com. Yes, it sucks, and yes, most of you can’t be bothered to do it. But that’s how we check out deals at nextpit. If you want to do the same, you now have the key.
If a third-party seller is not based in the EU, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are unreliable. / © Xiakeng
What do you think of these suggestions? You know these stories of exaggerated cross-out prices and synthetic orders? Are you planning to buy tech on Amazon during Prime Day 2023? If so, will you be more wary of crossed out prices or trust Amazon?