Scanner sweep ensures accurate pricing

Holiday shoppers have one less thing to worry about in Colorado: the accuracy of scanners that price their purchases at checkout counters.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture has conducted its annual scanner sweep to ensure consumers receive accurate prices at the register.

Inspectors with the department’s Division of Inspection and Consumer Service perform price verification tests at retail businesses to ensure the represented price for a given item matches what’s actually charged at the register.

In addition to performing routine inspections, ICS inspectors annually conduct a scanner inspection sweep of Colorado stores that cater to holiday shoppers. 

In a scanner sweep conducted in early November, a total of about 17,400 items were tested in 294 retail stores throughout the state. Overall, 99 percent of the stores passed with only three failed tests due to overcharge errors. All overcharges found at the time of inspection are usually corrected immediately by the store.

“Promising one price and charging a higher price is against the law,” said Nick Brechun, administrator of the department’s measurement standards program.

“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,” Brechun said.

During inspections, items to scan are chosen according to guidelines developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. A business fails when more than 2 percent of the item prices checked are found to be overcharges. Stores that fail price verification inspections are subject to stop orders and civil penalties. Undercharges are also noted and brought to the store’s attention, but are not counted toward the pass or fail rate. During the November scanner sweep, 256 items were undercharged at the register.

“It is also important for consumers to always check their sales receipts. 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,” Brechun said.