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In 2012, a Wall Street Journal investigation discovered online companies, including office-supply shop Staples and furniture retailer Home Depot, showed customers different prices based on ‘a range of characteristics that could be discovered about the user’.
Amazon was found to have charged some people more than others for the same DVD, with some alleging that older people were charged a higher price.
Over the course of three months, it studied a selection of consumer electronics, such as Fitbit fitness devices and computer games, to see how the average price fluctuated throughout the week.
In nearly all cases, prices were lower on a Monday or Tuesday — the least popular days of the week to shop online, according to retailers, and they were more expensive in the run-up to the weekend, when the bulk of online shopping takes place.
For example, the DVD of Stephen King’s 1990 thriller It changed price 24 times a month.
This strategy of prices moving up and down on a regular basis — and in real time — is known in the industry as ‘dynamic pricing’.