Probably if I'd searched their site I may have found a link to get the advertised rate. Or perhaps there was some fine print that explained "that prices vary according to the market" etc.
But I just sighed in resignation and resumed reading the paper, paying less attention to technology advertisements. Such practice are quite common in Australia. Airlines advertise air fares at a certain price, and then after you have made the decision to purchase, tell you about the extra charges. Major stores advertise "interest free" loans and then it turns out that there are some "financial charges". Etc. etc. Dell are hardly a stand-out case.
In the USA, great home of the free and land of the litigant, this sort of behaviour, often results in hotly contested legal action.
In Australia we tend to rely on organisations like the ACCC, which since it had its fangs removed several years ago is a something of a toothless tiger.
Alas for Dell, it appears that they may have been doing the same sort of thing in New York. And a bunch of outspoken New Yorkers got together with some lawyers and brought a suit against Dell for misleading advertising and shonky financial practices.
And On Tuesday, Justice Teresi ruled in favour of the petitioners (i.e. against Dell). For the legal minds, there is a PDF copy of the decision here.
In the coming months, it will be interesting to see if Dell's print advertisements in Australia begin to bear a much closer resemblance to their online advertisements than they have in the past.