Why You Can’t Trust You’re Getting the Best Deal Online
A Study Finds Discriminatory Pricing on E-Commerce Sites Is More Widespread Than Thought
"The study, by a team of computer scientists at Northeastern University, tracked searches on 16 popular e-commerce sites. Six of those sites used the pricing techniques; none of the sites alerted consumers to that fact.
"Among the study’s findings: Travel-booking sites Cheaptickets and Orbitz charged some users searching hotel rates an average $12 more per night if they weren’t logged into the sites, and Travelocity charged users of Apple Inc. ’s iOS mobile operating system $15 less for hotels than other users.
"Home Depot Inc. shows mobile-device users products that are roughly $100 more expensive than those offered to desktop-computer users. And Expedia and Hotels.com steer users at random to pricier products, the study said.
“In the real world, there are coupons and loyalty cards, and people are fine with that,” said Christo Wilson, an assistant professor at Northeastern who led the research team. “Here, there’s a transparency problem. The algorithms change regularly, so you don’t know if other people are getting the same results.”
Here's the paper that sparked the newspaper story:
Measuring Price Discrimination and Steering on E-commerce Web Sites
by Aniko Hannak, Gary Soeller, David Lazer, Alan Mislove, and Christo Wilson (all at Northeastern University).
and here's the website of the group: Personalization Research @ Northeastern