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Steep online discounts on phones, TVs return to haunt offline sellers

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Kolkata: Steep discounts on online purchases of smartphones and televisions is back in the ongoing festive season sales, and offline retailers are crying foul. Some models of leading brands such as Samsung, Apple, Realme, LG and Sony are being sold online at a 15-20% lower rate than the price at which retailers procure from brands, as the festive season sales by dominant e-commerce players Amazon and Flipkart got underway on Friday, according to multiple brick-and-mortar electronics and cell phone retailers.

On some models, the prices are so low that it can be construed as predatory discounting, retailers said. The massive discounts come after two years lost to the Covid-19 pandemic when supply constraints wiped away the usual higher discounts that used to be available on online purchases. Offline retailers have already complained to brands about this, while a retail group said it would take up the issue with the antimonopolies watchdog, Competition Commission of India (CCI).

“We are reaching out to brands on how they can support such low pricing in e-commerce, while we highlight such individual cases of steep discounting to the CCI,” said Rajkumar Pai, president of the Association of Consumer Electronics and Home Appliances Traders, which has 40 leading retail chains with a cumulative revenue of over Rs 20,000 crore.

“In some cases, the discounts are higher on older models rather than recent ones, while in others we are trying to match prices to the extent possible in order to not lose any business,” Pai said. US e-tailing behemoth Amazon and Walmart-owned homegrown e-tailer Flipkart began their biggest sales events – the first of the FESTIVE OFFERS BACK AFTER 2 YEARS Some models of top brands being sold at 15-20% lower rate than what retailers procure from brands STABLE PRICING Sony India’s MD Sunil Nayyar said the pricing is as stable as before and festive offers are for all our customers across platforms festive season when discounts usually tend to be the highest – from Friday.

Both the e-commerce firms have said previously that they do not control prices because their marketplace model is dependent on sellers and brands. Brands, too, typically say they do not support online predatory discounts.

Samsung, Apple, Realme and LG did not respond to ET’s emails. Sony India’s managing director Sunil Nayyar said the “pricing is as stable as before and festive season promotion offers are for all our customers across platforms.” Retailers, however, pointed out that two premium Sony brand TVs were being sold at lower rates online.

A 55-inch model retailing at Rs 71,990 offline is available for Rs 62,999 online, while a 50-inch model at Rs 64,990 sells at a Rs 10,000 discount online, they said. The discounts on the Apple iPhone 12 and 13 models are in the range of Rs 13,000 to Rs 15,000. A 32-inch Samsung smart TV is being sold at Rs 9,990 online with a one-year warranty, while the same model is sold offline at Rs 16,990 on a 3-year warranty.

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