For Immediate Release - December 07, 2009

Patrick Administration's Efforts to Control Overcharging Lead to Reductions in Incidents by Retailers

Division of Standards inspections show sharp declines in inaccurate prices at register by CVS, Stop and Shop

BOSTON - December 7, 2009 - After a series of meetings and inspections of retailers with high counts of overcharging, the Patrick Administration's Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation announced today its efforts have led to steep reductions in inaccurate prices at cash registers at the stores.

In 2008, CVS stores inspected by the Division of Standards had an average of 3.4 incidents of overpricing at each inspection. As a result, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation and the Division of Standards met with CVS and requested that CVS develop a remediation plan to correct its overcharging problem. After the plan was implemented by CVS, a recent inspection of 22 CVS stores by the state showed a total of three overcharging incidents.

Similarly, after a meeting with Stop and Shop that led to a remediation plan by the supermarket chain, inspections of 38 stores found a total of two overcharging violations. In 2008, Stop and Shop averaged 4.6 violations per inspection.

"We are very encouraged by these results, which prove that retailers can get a handle on overcharging with the appropriate policies and oversight," said Barbara Anthony, the Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. "In these economic times, consumers have to be assured that the price on the shelf is the price they pay on the register."

Overcharging is when an item is rung up at the register at a price higher than is listed on the shelf. The register price should match the shelf price. In 2008, the Division of Standards found a total of 2,055 instances of overcharging during 1,246 inspections at stores across the Commonwealth.

In many cases of overcharging, the issue develops when tags for sales are still on shelves, but the non-sale price has been put back into the register system. At both CVS and Stop and Shop, remediation plans attacked this problem. At CVS, employees were assigned to sections of the stores, with the responsibility of ensuring tags for sales prices were accurate and up to date. At Stop and Shop, a storewide upgrading of the pricing system ensures sales signs are taken down in a timely fashion.

The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation also met with Shaw's supermarkets this year. The supermarket requested the Division of Standards hold training seminars with employees. The Division held six meetings at Shaw's stores around the state, training about 125 managers and employees. The Division of Standards will continue to monitor Shaw's stores following the training.

"The steps we've taken with the retailers is a continuation of our effort to make sure consumers are as protected as possible from overcharging," said Charles Carroll, the Director of the Division of Standards. "The results of our recent inspections are good news for consumers, and we will continue to monitor retailers' efforts to eliminate overcharging problems."