For Immediate Release - December 20, 2005

Consumer Affairs Gauges Retailer Pricing Accuracy

Strong compliance at checkout, but in-aisle scanner concerns mount

Massachusetts Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom joined investigators with the Division of Standards today to release results of an annual survey of retailer pricing accuracy and call attention to deficiencies in compliance by retailers using in-aisle remote scanners.

State inspectors checked for pricing accuracy at thirteen retail chains statewide, scanning 4,900 items at 90 locations and finding only 51 overcharges at the checkout counter. While the overall accuracy rate for the stores visited was 99%, eight stores failed to initially meet the state's requirement for 98% accuracy in pricing (see attachment #1). A total of $5,500 in fines was issued to retailers where items were found to scan higher than the lowest advertised price. The largest overcharge was $25.00 at Filenes in Springfield.

"Compliance is excellent at the check-out counter, but we have some real concerns with oversight of in-aisle remote scanners, based on our findings. We recommend enhanced licensing requirements and fining authority in this area," said Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom.

A regulation under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General's office requires non-food retailers that do not individually price items to have working, in-aisle price scanners available to consumers in specified areas throughout a store.

"There's little oversight being exercised and our inspectors are finding far less compliance than we would expect. Given the authority, we think we can greatly improve consistency in the aisles," said Charles Carroll, Deputy Director of the Division of Standards.

Inspectors checked 861 in-aisle remote scanners at 124 non-food retail stores statewide and found almost 10% not working. Of those that were operational, 40% or 246 scanners failed to print a price ticket for inspectors (see attachment # 2). The Attorney General's regulation also requires that retailers provide the means for shoppers to affix a price ticket to a product if the scanner ticket isn't self-adhesive. 37% or 232 in-aisle scanners provided no means to do that. Retailers surveyed included Best Buy, BJ's Wholesale Club, Costco, Filenes, Target and WalMart.

Item Pricing Tips:

  • Bring circulars to the store with you. Regardless of the price scan, retailers must sell you the item for their lowest marked or advertised price. Exceptions: A sale price doesn't have to be given if an ad or circular specifies a limited quantity in stores or there was unexpected demand for an item and it's out-of-stock. Ask the manager for a rain check at the sale price, but know that these exceptions 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". If an item scans higher than advertised or marked, these retailers may give cash credits or sometimes offer an item free of charge.

2005 Item Pricing Accuracy Results
Retailer# of Stores# of ItemsOverchargesAvg. AccuracyFines
Best Buy31500100%0
B J's6350499%$500
Bob Stores3150398%$400
Circuit City85501298%$1,300
K B Toys63000100%0
Toys "R" Us2100298%$200

Attachment 1

Highest Overcharges
Best Buy$ -
BJ's$ 0.50
Bob Stores$ 12.50
Circuit City$ 20.00
Costco$ -
Dicks Sporting Goods$ 10.00
Filene's$ 25.00
K B Toys$ -
Kohls$ 10.00
Target$ 1.00
Toys R Us$ 8.02
Wal Mart$ 5.46

Attachment 2

In-Aisle Remote Scanner Survey FY05
Total Number of Stores Checked:124
Total Number of Scanners Checked:861
YesNoError Percentage
Scanner Operational787749%
Proper Signs Posted820415%
Prints a ticket61524640%
Means to affix price to item62923237%