For Immediate Release - December 21, 2011

As Consumers Wrap up Holiday Shopping, Annual Retail Scanner Survey Finds Accuracy Rates at 99.46 Percent

BOSTON – December 22, 2011 – The annual survey of retail scanners at stores across Massachusetts by the Patrick-Murray Administration's Division of Standards found 99.46 percent accuracy, with 12 of the 13 overcharging errors coming in at $1.50 or lower.

Inspectors from the Division of Standards checked 84 stores representing 46 retailers across Massachusetts. Of the 2,425 items checked, 13 overcharges were found at retail scanners. The 99.46 accuracy rate is consistent with recent years. In 2010 the rate was 99.58, in 2009 it was 99.51, and in 2008 it was 99.18.

"As consumers hop from checkout counter to checkout counter during the holiday season, it can be difficult to keep track of prices listed at a display and then rung up at the counter. Consumers need to have a trust with the retailer that the price they are charged is accurate," said Barbara Anthony, the Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. "These results show retailers take that trust and their responsibility seriously, and we applaud them for consistently excellent results in this area."

The inspections led to $1,500 for the overcharges and for four stores that did not meet the 98 percent accuracy threshold mandated by state regulations. Those four stores were O'Connor Hardware at 446 Boston Road, Billerica (three of 50 items overcharged); Home Depot on Main Street in Tewksbury (three of 50 items overcharged); and the Sears and Best Buy at the Lanesboro Mall (two of 50 items overcharged at both locations).

The overcharges included an $11.50 overcharge on Pioneer car speakers at Best Buy – a 30 percent increase from the $37.49 advertised price. All of the other overcharges were $1.50 or lower. The entire list of results is available at the Division of Standards website.

"Retailers have gotten the message about the importance of scanner accuracy, as we consistently remind them of their responsibility to give consumers accurate prices," said Charles Carroll, the Director of the Division of Standards. "As consumer complete their holiday shopping, they can take this good news and be confident their purchases are being rung up accurately."

In order to ensure the price at the register is the right price for consumers, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation offers the following tips:

  • Bring sales circulars with you. Generally, retailers are required to sell you the item for the lowest marked or advertised price. There are some exceptions, such as when there is a limited quantity of items advertised or if there was unexpected demand for an item and it is out of stock. Ask the manager for a rain check, but be aware that exceptions to this rule exist.
  • If an item scans higher than advertised or marked, ask for a price check from the store manager.
  • Some retailers have a price accuracy guarantee. That will apply if an item scans higher than the advertised or marked price.
  • Check your receipt before you walk away. If you notice an error, ask the cashier to fix it. If you've already left the cashier, talk to a store or department manager.
  • Make sure the store's refund, return or cancellation policy is clearly and conspicuously displayed. The merchant must display a written policy that the buyer can see before the purchase is made.
  • A store cannot use its disclosed policy to refuse the return of defective merchandise. You can choose to have the item repaired, replaced, or ask for a refund. If the merchant has an "all sales final" policy, it must disclose that policy upfront without limiting your rights. For example, "All sales final with the exception of defective goods."

The Patrick-Murray Administration's Division of Standards enforces laws, rules, and regulations relating to weights and measures and the use of weighing and measuring devices in commercial transactions. It consistently checks item pricing and pricing methods at retailers throughout Massachusetts. The Division is part of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. For more on the Division and the Office, visit http://www.mass.gov/consumer and the Office's Consumer Connections blog, and follow the Office on Twitter @Mass_Consumer.

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