Dec 22, 2009 6:46 PM by Greg Boyce
A price check of thousands of items at 236 retail outlets in Colorado during the first week of December performed by Department of Agriculture employees found the correct price was charged 97 percent of the time.
Each year the Colorado Department of Agriculture's Inspection and Consumer Services Division does the survey. After checking the price on more than 14,000 items they found problems at only four out of 236 stores.
"Advertising one price for a given item and charging a higher price is against the law," said Nick Brechun, CDA Measurement Standards Retail Program Administrator. "Retailers are aware of how important accurate prices are in maintaining customer satisfaction. However, inexperienced employees, higher sales volumes, and more sales may lead to increased pricing errors during the holidays."
Officials at the Colorado Department of Agriculture urge consumers to always check their receipts. Department inspectors visit retailers throughout the year to ensure that consumers pay only the advertised price. Pricing accuracy inspections are conducted at grocery and department stores, drug stores, auto and office supply outlets, convenience stores, and other retail businesses that use electronic scanning devices and UPC look-up equipment. Retail establishments are selected either randomly or using a risk-based inspection system. Using the risk-based inspection system, stores that fail testing are retested until improvement has been demonstrated.
During inspections, items to scan are chosen according to guidelines developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The amount of items tested vary depending on store size, however the typical store will have between 50-100 items inspected for its advertised price accuracy. A business fails when more than two percent of the prices checked are found to be overcharges. Stores that fail are subject to stop orders and civil penalties. Undercharges are also noted and brought to the store's attention at the time of inspection, but are not counted toward the business' pass or fail rate.
Since July 1, 2009, inspectors statewide have found that fewer than seven percent of stores inspected failed due to excessive overcharge errors; and nearly a quarter of those firms were issued a civil penalty as a result. Problems identified by inspectors include errors made during price changes, sale price errors, and incorrectly stocked items. All overcharges found at the time of inspection must be corrected by the store immediately.
To avoid being overcharged, consumers should be aware of prices listed on the shelf, product tag, or advertisement. Inaccuracies should be reported to the store's management.
For additional information, or to file a pricing error complaint, contact the Colorado Department of Agriculture Measurement Standards at (303) 477-4220.