A new study shows that some merchants may not be giving consumers what they were promised.
The state Department of Weights and Measures picked up those ads stuffed in the Sunday papers of newspapers from all around the state for the last 2 1/2 months. And then they sent out staffers to check out whether they could buy the approximately 3,600 items listed for the prices listed.
What they found, according to agency Director Kevin Tyne, is that a third of the 57 retailers were charging customers more than advertised. And the excess paid, he said, approached $400.
Tyne said there were situations where the bargains were actually better than the ads, with shoppers coming out ahead on at least one item at 20 stores. And the prices at the remainder matched what was promoted.
The lesson, said Tyne, is that customers need to be on their toes.
“The best advice we can give for consumers if they’re actually utilizing advertisements and coupons is to bring those in to the store with you and be conscientious of what the price is being charged when you are at the cash register,” he said.
Tyne said if the price at the register is higher than the ad, say something.
But nothing in state law requires the retailers to sell it at the lower price. He said what happens depends on the store.
“All retail locations in Arizona are required to have a price error policy which dictates exactly how the store will handle those pricing discrepancies,” he said. And he said those policies have to be made available to consumers on demand.
“We encourage all consumers to be mindful of that,” Tyne said.
While the customer might not get the item at the advertised price, that does not let the store off the hook.
Tyne pointed out there are various state laws which regulate how items are sold.One set requires that retailers must post prices either on the shelf of nearby. And the price that rings up at the register has to match the price on the shelf.
But Tyne said there are broader laws making it illegal to “represent the price in any manner calculated or tending to mislead or in a way to deceive a person.”
Tyne said his inspectors cited seven of the stores they visited where the cash register price did not match the advertised price, with $5,200 in fines levied.
He said the other 12 were not issued citations because the law requires retailers to maintain a 98 percent compliance rating during audit. Tyne said that means a store could have one item priced wrong but, given the number of items checked, still pass the inspection and not be penalized.
Tyne also said that while his inspectors were out, they also cited three other stores where they were unable to find the price on the shelf or nearby, resulting in another $2,100 in penalties.