House panel kills measure on store mispricings - East Valley Tribune: Business

House panel kills measure on store mispricings

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Posted: Thursday, February 15, 2007 5:17 am | Updated: 7:41 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Shoppers who are charged too much at the register for items they buy won’t get a refund — much less a reward for pointing it out to management.

On a tie vote, the House Commerce Committee killed a proposal Wednesday to mandate that retailers sell items to customers at the price actually marked on the shelf or directly on the item.

Some stores will do that now. And some even will give the customer the item for free. But nothing requires them to do that.

But HB2665 also would mandate that customers who find the overcharges to get a bonus of 10 times the price difference, up to $5.

And if a store refused to do either, then the customer could go to court and demand at least $250 in damages.

The problem, said Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, is that prices that ring up at registers which use automatic scanners often are higher than what is posted on the shelf — the price that consumers were led to believe they would be charged.

As proof he cited figures from the state Department of Weights and Measures, which normally picks up 50 items at random from stores being checked. At nearly one-third of the stores, more than one item rang up at a price higher than posted.

Michelle Ahlmer, executive director of the Arizona Retailers Association, said the legislation is unnecessary.

She said retailers already are subject to penalties from the state for repeat violations. And Ahlmer pointed out that Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard has taken Wal-Mart and AutoZone to court, saying that their repeated pattern of mispriced items amounts to consumer fraud.

Dennis Ehrhart, the agency’s assistant director, told lawmakers his agency issued $73,000 in fines against retailers who had multiple violations.

“But there are still those who look at this as the cost of doing business,” he said. Ehrhart called the legislation “a good tool for the consumers.”

Ahlmer said the best solution for customers who believe they have been overcharged is to talk to the retailers.

Farley disagreed. He said while a customer who complains might be able to get the item at the lower price, without a penalty there is no incentive for the store manager to fix the problem and correct the price on the shelf. And that, he said, means other customers who do not review a sales slip as carefully may end up paying too much.

Rep. Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, said he’s not convinced that the problem is as bad as Farley said. He called the measure “legislation by anecdote.”

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