Office of Consumer Affairs Fourth of July Survey Shows 100 Percent Accuracy for In-Aisle and Register Scanners
Finds Several Hannaford’s Locations and Two Market Basket Stores Cheapest for Ten Popular BBQ Items
BOSTON – As the Commonwealth gears up for one of the busiest barbecue days of the year, Massachusetts shoppers can fire up the grill this Fourth of July confident the prices at their local market are accurate. A survey by the Patrick Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) and the Division of Standards (DOS) found that supermarkets showed 100 percent price accuracy between shelf and scanner prices.
Last year, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law item pricing legislation that provides stronger consumer protections for shoppers in Massachusetts while allowing businesses to implement high technology scanner systems. Stores using the new technology must first obtain a waiver from the Division of Standards. Stores that choose to continue with the older model of individual item pricing are still governed by the Division of Standards’ regulations. Massachusetts is the last state to phase out the individual item pricing law.
“Consumers planning their Fourth of July barbecues can eat easy knowing that their supermarkets, wherever they may shop, are doing the very best to ensure price accuracy,” said Barbara Anthony, Undersecretary for the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. “Consumers should feel empowered to shop around at different chains for the best deals knowing that the price they see on the shelves is what they’ll be charged at the register.
This is the first survey since new item pricing regulations were made effective in January of this year. Grocery stores and stores with food departments now have the option to waive out of previous regulations, which required individual sticker pricing for each item, and instead offer scanners as a means to check prices. Stores must receive approval from DOS before transitioning to the new scanner system. Of the chains surveyed, Stop and Shop and Hannaford are the only two with item pricing waivers.
Surveyors from OCABR and DOS reviewed select barbecue items in five major supermarket chains across the Commonwealth between June 12 and June 28, 2013, looking for accurate pricing information on shelves and at scanners. For stores that have received a waiver and use scanner technology, surveyors looked for price accuracy between the shelf prices and in-aisle or handheld scanner prices. For stores that have not received a waiver, surveyors looked for price accuracy between the prices on each item, shelf prices and scanned prices at the register.
“With the implementation of the new scanner technology, we are pleased but not surprised with these results,” said Charles Carroll, Director of the Division of Standards. “Massachusetts has always enjoyed upwards of 98 percent accuracy at food retailers, and as more stores transition to using scanners, we believe that consumers can continue to expect this high level of accuracy.”
Surveyors went to 18 store locations with a list of ten popular barbecue items, including hamburger meat, hot dogs, buns, coleslaw, ketchup, and pickles. Of the locations surveyed, Hannaford stores rang up the cheapest, with an average total price of $31.57. Shaw’s supermarkets rang in with the highest total prices for the barbecue items, averaging $39.75.
STOP & SHOP
For a full breakdown of each store’s shelf and scanner prices, click here.
In addition to the five major chains, surveyors also checked two Market Basket locations for pricing accuracy. Surveyors found no item pricing violations at these two stores, and found that they actually had the lowest prices of the chains surveyed. However, the food retailer was not included in the official survey results because only two store locations were visited, thus not enabling a true comparison of Market Basket’s average prices.
The Office of Consumer Affairs reminds consumers of their rights under the new item pricing regulations when shopping with the new scanner systems:
- Prices must be printed on itemized sales receipts.
- If the amount charged at the register is more than the shelf price, consumers receive the item free if it costs less than $10, or receive $10 off the price of the item if it costs more than $10.
- If a consumer is overcharged at a store using the old sticker item pricing system they should, under the law, get the item for the lower price.
Last year, Governor Patrick signed the new item pricing law that provides stronger consumer protections for shoppers in Massachusetts while allowing businesses to implement high technology scanner systems. Stores using the new technology must first obtain a waiver from the Division of Standards. Stores that choose to continue with the older model of individual item pricing are still governed by the Division of Standards’ regulations. Massachusetts is the last state to phase out the individual item pricing law.
The Division of Standard is a regulatory agency within the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation that 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 Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education, and also works to ensure that the businesses its agencies regulate treat all Massachusetts consumers fairly. Follow the Office at its blog, on Facebook and on Twitter @Mass_Consumer.