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December 16, 1999

Keep an Eye on Prices at the Register! 1 in 5 Stores in Florida Found to Overcharge

Tallahassee, FL (SafetyAlerts) - Nearly one in five Florida stores had an unacceptable level of pricing errors during a statewide pre-Christmas sweep of retail stores' scanning equipment, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Bob Crawford announced today.

Fifteen of the 83 stores tested last week failed their inspections because of error rates ranging from 6 percent to 18 percent, although two-thirds of the failures occurred because of mistakes in customers' favor. Stores must achieve a grade of 98 percent or higher to pass an inspection.

Overall, the scanning-equipment survey found errors in about 3 percent of the 4,150 items that inspectors scanned at the stores. Some of the 83 stores which were inspected had perfect scores, and most had two or fewer errors among the 50 items scanned in each location.

The largest overcharge found during the inspections was one for $69.01 for a woman's suit at a Parisian store in Pensacola. The largest undercharge was for $19.10 for a pressure hose from a Home Depot in Pinellas Park.

In every case where an error was detected, store personnel immediately corrected their scanning equipment to reflect the actual price, Crawford said. Stores that failed their inspection will be re-inspected in the coming weeks.

Still, the results of the 29-city blitz underscore the need for consumers to be vigilant about what they are charged at the checkout line, Crawford said.

"It's critical that consumers know the price of the merchandise they are buying, and compare that to what is charged at the checkout line," Crawford said. "If there is any discrepancy, they should bring it to the attention of the store. If that doesn't work, I would encourage them to call our office, and we can send out an inspector."

Crawford's office's toll free number is 1 800 HELP FLA (435-7352).

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