Although relatively new to the UK, having launched its UK site at the end of 2008, PriceMinister has enjoyed phenomenal growth in its native France.
Having started in 2001 in the cultural goods market, the company has more than doubled in size each year since then. It is now the second ranked e-commerce site in France, with only eBay in front, and has the top spot in its sights. There are a claimed 8 million registered members, 120 million products available and around 2 million visits every day. The UK site (www.priceminister.co.uk) was opened to break into Europe's biggest e-commerce market, adding to sites in Spain, Belgium and Switzerland.
The website operates as a market place that connects buyers and sellers and so to some degree is comparable to eBay. The difference here is that there are no auctions - everything is fixed price. There are also no delivery charges to UK addresses unless you go for recorded delivery. So, none of that DVDs for 99p with £19.99 posting a packaging that you get endlessly on eBay!
Over in France, there are separate sites that have cars, travel and real estate deals. Word of warning, use the .co.uk extension only as www.priceminister.com shows the French version, the same as www.priceminister.fr - which is strange as most European covering sites tend to use the .com to direct people to the right site. This company seem to be relying on their geo-ip-location software to recognise you're from the UK and serve up a pop up asking if you'd like to go to the english version site.
As you'd expect, all products are available by category, with the beloved geeky offerings of phones, games, music, computing and electronics. There are also books and fashion categories, with a mixture of new and used items in all categories. Finding what you want is easy because you can select by category, search by keyword or browse through indexes. If you can't find what you want, you can add it to your wish list. With around 200,000 new items being listed each day, the chances are that you'll get an email when the item becomes available.
The success of the site is largely put down to it being easy to use, offering good value and being safe and secure for buyers and sellers. Both occasional and professional sellers are catered for, with no listing fee and a recommendation to set selling prices at no more than 50 percent of the recommended retail price.
When you buy an item, payment is though a guaranteed secure system by debit or credit card, or you can use an 'e-wallet' that you keep topped up with cash. Goods are then dispatched by the seller direct to the buyer. No money is paid to the seller until the goods are confirmed as received in good condition - if not, a full refund is given. Once receipt is confirmed, the seller is paid after deducting commission.
An area where the company has been remarkably strict is in its stance on fake goods, which is in keeping with its 'safe and secure' policy. From the early days, it worked with many luxury goods manufacturers to identify counterfeit products and ensure they were removed from listings. The company even gave evidence in the High Court when cosmetics firm L'Oreal was in dispute with eBay over the sale of fake cosmetics on its site.
Normally we don't go out on a limb, but I think it's safe to say ... come on Price Minister!
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