For Immediate Release - December 18, 2012

With Holiday Shopping In Homestretch, Annual Retail Scanner Survey Finds Accuracy Rates Hold Steady At 99.56 Percent

BOSTON – The annual survey of retail scanners at stores across Massachusetts by the Patrick-Murray Administration's Division of Standards Compliance Officers found 99.59 percent accuracy, with 6 of the 13 overcharging errors coming in at $2 or lower.

Compliance Officers from the Division of Standards checked 114 stores representing 46 retailers across Massachusetts. Of the 3,201 items checked, 13 overcharges were found at retail scanners. The 99.59 accuracy rate is consistent with recent years. In 2011 the rate was 99.46, in 2010 the rate was 99.58 and in 2009 it was 99.51. The review checked the price of an item on the actual item against the price at the checkout counter, and overcharges occur when the checkout price is higher than the listed price.

"As consumers go from store to store doing their holiday shopping it can become difficult to keep track of prices listed at a display and then rung up at the counter. Consumers need to trust that the price at the register is the accurate price of a particular item," Barbara Anthony, the Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. "These results show retailers take their responsibility seriously, and we applaud them for consistently excellent results in this area."

The inspections led to $1,600 in fines for the overcharges by five stores that did not meet the 98 percent accuracy threshold mandated by state regulations. Those five stores were William Sonoma at 75 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington; DSW, 1362 Park St., Stoughton; Wal-Mart, 25 Tobias Boland Way, Worcester; and Wal-Mart, 742 Main St., Oxford.

The overcharges included a $10 overcharge on G-By-Guess and a $5 overcharge on Bare Traps at the DSW in Stoughton, a $6 overcharge on a Roadmaster Mountain Bike at the Wal-Mart in Worcester, and a $5 overcharge on Columbia Boys Ski Pants at Dick's Sporting Goods in Pittsfield. William Sonoma in Burlington had four item-pricing errors ranging from $4 to $1. All of the other overcharges were $2 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. "With this good news, consumers can shop confidently this holiday season knowing they are being charged the right amount."

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 Facebook and Twitter @Mass_Consumer.

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