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Kingsway: dishonest discounts or fair practice? June 5, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Christian Book Trade.
Tags: , , , , ,

Over on my Christian Bookshops Blog we’re having a prolonged discussion about the price of Christian music and, in particular, Kingsway’s CD pricing policy.

Kingsway, a subsidiary of the USA based David C Cook group, have adopted a policy of setting an RRP (Recommended Retail Price) for their CDs which they then undercut, usually by about 20% but often by significantly more, without ever having actually charged the RRP themselves. The new ‘Very Best of Graham Kendrick’ album is a typical example — Our price £11.99, RRP £14.99 — highlighted in this post:

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Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been having a lively discussion about Kingsway’s practice of offering “discounts” at kingswayshop.com by comparing their own prices to their own RRPs, typified in this screenshot of the new Very Best of Graham Kendrick album: … Read More

Any company advertising their own products on the basis of “Our price £X, RRP £Y” when they themselves have set the RRP is, I think, operating in a grey area at best, if they’re not actually being downright dishonest — and for a supposedly Christian company to engage in this sort of practice strikes me as doubly disappointing.

The Government’s Pricing practices guide: guidance for traders on good practice in giving information about prices (pdf, 422kb | Google Docs ‘Quick View’) sets out some general principles designed to help protect consumers from unfair trading practices. Whilst the guidance is not comprehensive, at least two sections seem relevant:

1.2 Comparisons with the trader’s own previous price

1.2.3 (a) A price used as a basis for comparison should have been your most recent price available for 28 consecutive days or more;

Kingsway, of course, are not claiming that their RRPs are a ‘previous price’ so it could be argued that the specific guidance of 1.2.3 (a) does not apply. But if the RRP has never been charged, is it not a purely fictional device? We move on, then, to consider the guidance on RRPs:

1.6 Comparisons with “Recommended Retail Price” or similar

1.6.1 You should not use a recommended retail price, or similar, as a basis of comparison which is not genuine, or if it differs significantly from the price at which the product is generally sold.

1.6.2 You should not use an RRP or similar for goods that only you supply.

Given that Kingsway’s RRP’s are not charged by Kingsway themselves but are only used in their dealings with other traders, any claim that those RRPs are genuine seems disingenuous at best; and given that Kingsway are the sole suppliers of Kingsway products — even when made available through other traders — then, with the best will in the world, I’m finding it difficult to see this as anything but a con. The ‘discount’ seems to be nothing more than bait to draw people in, the RRP a hook to hang it from.

I’m posting this here because I’d like some feedback from those outside the trade: how do you as a music buyer — the prospective end ‘consumer’ of  Kingsway products — feel about this? Is what Kingsway are doing here fair game in a tough marketplace, is it a con or is it something else entirely?

Any members of the trade are still very welcome to join the conversation here, of course; and anyone outside the trade is welcome to join the discussions over there too:

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