According to a recent study, many consumers are unaware that price discrimination occurs over the Internet. But apparently, it does.

The Internet allows shoppers to easily compare prices across thousands of stores. But it also enables businesses to collect detailed information about a customer's purchasing history, preferences, and financial resources -- and to set prices accordingly.

So when you buy an airplane ticket or a DVD online, you may pay a higher - or lower - price than another customer buying the very same item from the very same site.

Why? Because the information the site has compiled on you suggests that you may be willing to pay more - or less - than others for that item. Or, perhaps, because the company is conducting random price tests to figure out what the ideal price point is for its product.

When the price charged isn't random, though, this practice -- the practice of charging different prices to different consumers based on their profiles -- is often referred to as price customization or "dynamic" pricing. But many consumers, angry about the practice, feel that these are simply euphemisms for unequal and unfair treatment.

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