For Immediate Release - December 21, 2009

Retailers Score High, Consumers Win Big on Division of Standards Retail Scanner Price Checks

Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation offers shopping tips for season's end

BOSTON - December 21, 2009 - Consumers can finish their holiday shopping confident that they will be charged accurately for gifts after the Patrick-Murray Administration's Division of Standards' annual pricing scanner survey found scanners were 99.51 percent accurate.

State regulations mandate stores' scanners be 98 percent accurate, and all 75 stores checked were above that threshold. In fact, 13 of 15 retailers checked in at 99 percent or higher overall. In all, Division of Standards inspectors checked 3,863 items, and only 19 were scanned at an overcharge.

"These results show that retailers take their responsibility for accurately pricing items quite seriously," said Barbara Anthony, the Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. "In the sprint to the end of the holiday shopping season, when consumers are at their most frazzled, this is good news."

The survey by the Division of Standards checked major retailers throughout the state. In all, 15 retailers and 75 locations were checked to ensure the prices rung up at checkout scanners matched the retail price of the item. The Division fined violators the maximum $100 per overcharge, for a total of $1,900.

At five retailers - Babies R Us, BJ's, K-Mart, Marshall's and Toys R Us - there were no overcharges found. No overcharges were more than $10 (at Dick's Sporting Goods and JC Penny), and the average overcharge of $5.59 is significantly lower than the $11.09 average in 2008 and the $13.90 average in 2007.

"In recent years, we've seen better and better results of our inspections, and these numbers are more proof that retailers are hearing our message of accuracy," Charles Carroll, the Director of the Division of Standards, said of the annual survey. "Consumers can be confident they are being charged the accurate price at the register."

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 Division of Standards is part of the Patrick Administration's Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. It enforces laws, rules and regulations relating to weights and measures, and the use of weights of measuring devices in commercial transactions. For more on the Division, click here. Consumers can reach the Division at (617) 727-3480.