For Immediate Release - December 21, 2006

Annual Price Survey Accuracy Results Excellent

Consumer Affairs Chief Offers Last Minute Shopping Tips

Massachusetts Consumer Affairs Director Janice S. Tatarka today announced that the annual retailer pricing accuracy survey produced terrific results, with only four stores failing this year. Tatarka also urged consumers to remember to make thoughtful and informed purchases with just four shopping days to go before Christmas.

"I applaud Massachusetts' retailers for their commitment to ensuring that their customers receive the right price at the cash register," said Tatarka. "The Division of Standards takes very seriously their role as consumer watchdogs by inspecting retail stores for their compliance with state item pricing regulations."

The annual retailer pricing accuracy survey was conducted by state inspectors over the last few weeks. Inspectors checked for pricing accuracy at 13 retail chains statewide, scanning 4,100 items at 80 locations finding only 33 overcharges at the checkout. The overall accuracy rate for stores inspected was 99 percent, but four stores failed the state's 98 percent price accuracy regulations. A total of $3,600 in fines was issued to retailers when items were found to scan for a higher price than the lowest advertised price. The largest overcharge was $15.00 at a Circuit City in North Attleboro. For survey results, please see the attached document xls format of Retail_Store_Survey_Summary2006.xls .

Shopping Tips:

  • Bring sale circulars to the store with you. Regardless of the price scan, generally retailers are required to sell you the item for their lowest marked or advertised price. Please note exceptions: A sale price does not have to be given if an ad or circular specifies a limited quantity in stores or if there was an unexpected demand for an item and it is out-of-stock. Ask the manager for a rain check at the sale price, 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. These retailer may have a policy that will give you cash credits or offer an item free of charge.
  • Check your receipt before you walk away. If you notice an error, ask the cashier to adjust the total. If you've already left the cashier, see the store or department manager or the customer service department to correct any mistakes.
  • Know your shopping rights. The product you purchase must do what it was designed to do with reasonable safety, efficiency and ease for at least a reasonable period of time, formally called an "implied warranty."
  • The merchant must clearly and conspicuously disclose the store's refund, return or cancellation policy before the purchase is made. The merchant must display a written policy that the buyer can see before the purchase is made. If you don't see the policy, ask about it.
  • A store cannot use its disclosed policy to refuse the return of defective merchandise. When the item purchased is defective, you can choose a repair, replacement or refund. If a merchant chooses an "all sales final" return policy, it must disclose that policy upfront without limiting your rights. For example, all sales final with the exception of defective goods.
  • Gift certificates must remain valid for at least seven years and are not subject to any fees.

Once you have used 90 percent of the certificate's value, you may choose to take the remaining value in cash, or continue with the gift certificate.

  • Gift certificates must be clearly marked with an expiration date or one must be made readily accessible. If expiration dates are not provided, the gift certificate shall be good forever.
  • Dormancy fees (fees charged for not using your gift certificate in a timely manner) are not allowed in Massachusetts.
  • Always read the fine print and make sure you understand the store's gift card policy. If you don't understand the terms ask questions before you buy! Make sure the policy is printed on the card or you receive a copy of the terms before you leave the store.
"Holiday shopping can at times be very stressful," said Tatarka. "I encourage all consumers to take a moment and understand their shopping rights and retail stores policies before opening up their wallet this holiday season. I wish you all very happy and smart shopping."