Survey by Patrick-Murray Administration's Division of Standards Finds Few Overcharges at Drug Stores
Overall accuracy at 99.2 percent, CVS continues success in reducing overcharges
The survey included 129 stores and 6,648 items at CVS, Walgreen's and Rite Aid, with prices accurate or undercharged 99.2 percent of the time. Division of Standards inspectors did issue 45 civil citations, amounting to $5,600. The Division of Standards regularly checks drug stores and other stores for item-pricing violations. "Overcharging" is when the price at the register charged to the consumer is higher than the price on the shelf. (See the entire results of the survey by clicking here .)
"Consumers expect that the price they see on the shelf will be the price they are charged at the register, and this review shows stores are doing a good job on avoiding overcharges," said Charles Carroll, the Director of the Division of Standards. "It appears these stores have systems in place that maintain a high level of accuracy."
Inspectors checked 51 CVS stores, which has been working with the Division of Standards and Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation for over a year on mitigating overcharges. An inspection of CVS stores in 2008 found an average of 3.4 overcharge incidents per inspection. A follow up survey last year found three overcharging incidents at 22 stores. The surveys this month found 34 overcharges out of 2,648 items, for 98.7 percent accuracy.
However, five CVS stores failed to meet the 98 percent minimum accuracy mandated by state regulations. Those stores are in Spencer (94 percent accurate), Pittsfield (96 percent accurate), Billerica (96 percent accurate), Norton (96 percent accurate), and Mansfield (94 percent accurate).
The Division of Standards checked 41 Walgreen's around the state, and scanned 2,150 items. There were 13 overcharges, for a 99.4 percent accuracy rate. The Division also checked 37 Rite Aids, and 99.7 percent of the 1,850 items checked at those stores were accurately priced.
In all, 53 items were overcharges. Three of four highest overcharges were at Walgreen's, including a toothbrush that was $3.50 over the shelf price at a Norton store. The highest overcharge at CVS was a "LED aluminum lite" that was $3.30 overcharged at a Middleboro store. Rite Aid's highest overcharge was 50 cents, for Citrical Calcium at a Chicopee store.
According to statue, every instance of overcharging can be fined $100. Also, failing to meet the 98 percent total accuracy threshold is a $100 on the first instance, and $250 thereafter. The largest fine was at a CVS in Pittsfield, which was fined $500 for four overcharges and falling below 98 percent accuracy. CVS stores were fined a total of $3,600, Walgreen's were fined a total of $1,400, and Rite Aids were fined a total of $600.
Consumers are urged to keep an eye on prices, both at the shelf and at the register. If a consumer believes there is a pricing error, a staff member or manager should be notified.
"This survey shows a marked improvement over previous surveys, and it looks like enhanced attention to pricing accuracy is paying off," said Barbara Anthony, the Undersecretary of the Patrick-Murray Administration's Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. "Consumers play an important role here, too. When it comes to pocketbook matters like this, the consumer is her own best advocate, and asking for clarification if there is a question about price accuracy is always appropriate."
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 www.mass.gov/consumer and the Office's Consumer Connections blog, and follow the Office on Twitter @Mass_Consumer.