Undersecretary Of Consumer Affairs Barbara Anthony Testifies On New Item Pricing Law
BOSTON - Undersecretary of Consumer Affairs Barbara Anthony today testified at a public hearing held by the Division of Standards on a new grocery pricing law, calling on the food retail industry to lead the charge in continuing to ensure price accuracy.
In January, Massachusetts will join the rest of the country in shifting from a system that sees a sticker price on most individual grocery items to a system that relies on shelf labels, scanners, and stiff penalties for inaccurate pricing in food stores.
"In January, important changes will come to food shopping as a new law goes into effect. It's imperative that consumers understand these changes” said Undersecretary Anthony. "Our challenge is to ensure that price accuracy will continue under the new system."
For years, Division of Standards surveys have shown that Massachusetts consumers have enjoyed over 99 percent price accuracy in that the price of the item matches the price rung up at the cash register.
Undersecretary Anthony said the new law allows businesses to implement advanced technology while providing strong consumer protections, called on consumers to be price-conscious shoppers and urged the Division of Standards to draft regulations that seek to maintain the trust that Massachusetts consumers have in the integrity of our marketplace.
The new law provides consumer protections for shoppers in Massachusetts who will be shopping in food stores and food departments that implement consumer price scanner systems. Stores using a scanner system will be required to have a code affixed to each item so that it can be read by a scanner. The store will also need to put up signs at the item’s sales display point that identify its correct price and an unabbreviated description of the item. For retailers using a dual pricing system for loyalty cards, both prices must be disclosed at the point of sale, as well as the amount or percent of savings offered by the card for that item.
Stores will need to obtain a waiver from the Division of Standards in order to utilize the price scanner systems. Stores that choose to continue with individual item pricing will still be governed by Division of Standard regulations. Massachusetts is the last state to phase out the individual item pricing law.
Checkout prices will need to be printed on itemized sales receipts, allowing consumers to track purchases and readily check for any errors. Under the new law, consumers who are victims of overcharges – where the amount charged at the register is more than the shelf price – will be given new options for relief. Consumers can pay the lower price, receive the item for free if it costs less than $10, or receive $10 off the price of the item if it costs more than $10.
The new law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2013. Throughout the rulemaking process, written comments may be submitted to the Division of Standards, One Ashburton Place, Room 1115, Boston, Massachusetts, 02108 or to Charles.Carroll@state.ma.us .
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 on its Facebook page and on Twitter, @Mass_Consumer.