Commissioner's Blog - Checkout Checks
With David Hillyard, Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection
Each week, our team of compliance officers visit shops across the Perth metropolitan area to see whether prices advertised on store shelves match the amounts customers are charged when the goods are scanned at the checkout. These checks are called price scanning audits and are also done by Consumer Protection officers in country towns to make sure regional consumers are also paying the advertised shelf price amount for goods.
How are they done?
Price scanning audits are usually conducted on a voluntary basis and most stores are willing to have their pricing scrutinised by Consumer Protection. After introducing themselves to the store manager, Consumer Protection officers select up to 15 items from the shop. Officers will choose a wide variety of items. When auditing a grocery store, Consumer Protection will fill a basket of goods commonly bought by people during a weekly shopping excursion. The officers record the price of each item and then ask staff to scan them at the checkout. If the price scans higher than the advertised shelf price, the officer will bring it to the store manager’s attention and ask for an explanation. The information is relayed to retail managers at Consumer Protection. If the price scans lower, our officers let the store know but are not so concerned by consumers getting a better deal.
Consumer Protection is happy to report that most WA retailers are compliant with price scanning requirements. So far this financial year only four per cent of goods scanned by Consumer Protection officers didn’t match the shelf price. Some of these goods scanned at lower amounts than advertised.
Discrepancies are usually genuine errors by service staff despite urban tales about attempts by retailers to mislead customers. Sometimes a staff member may have made a mistake while stocking shelves or putting price tickets on display. Occasionally there may be a computer problem that is causing items to be scanned incorrectly.
Price scanning audits are one way Consumer Protection actively promotes the rights of consumers. The audits serve as a reminder to retailers and store managers to be vigilant and stay on top of price changes.
If you’d like to learn more about the role Consumer Protection plays in protecting consumer rights browse our website – www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumerprotection. If you have any concerns about a retailer or another consumer issue email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 30 40 54.
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