Number of stores fined for overcharging customers through price scanning mistakes skyrockets

Diane Wilson Image
Wednesday, July 13, 2022
Price scanning errors on the rise in North Carolina
Overcharged while checking out. Several stores in the Triangle paid thousands of dollars in fines for price scanning errors.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Overcharged while checking out. Several stores in the Triangle paid thousands of dollars in fines for price scanning errors.

"Our average fines that we hand out for overcharging stores are probably about $40,000 to $50,000 a year, and this past year, we've had half a million...and mainly, I would assume that's caused by inflation and staffing problems," Chad Parker with the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Standards Division said.

With prices of groceries and products increasing, you don't want to be paying more than you should.

"Right now I imagine everybody's pockets are a little different than what they're used to. So every penny counts," shopper SaDonna Latimore said.

To make sure every penny you pay counts, inspectors with the Standards Division of the State inspect price-scanner systems in businesses to check the prices advertised is the price that rings up at the register.

"In the past year there has been a total explosion of price scanning mistakes," Parker adds. He said many stores can't keep up with the rising prices of goods. "These prices are downloaded digitally automatically to their scanning system, and then it's the manager or the employees' job to go out there and manually pull the price tags off the shelf and put the new ones on, and if they don't do it, then the system is updated, but those tags are old."

When an inspector with the state inspects a store they pull a minimum of 50 items, collect those barcodes and match those barcodes with the scanning system of the business to make sure it's accurate.

If a store has more than a 2% error rate on overcharges, inspectors conduct a more intensive follow-up inspection later. If a store fails a follow-up inspection, they're fined, and go through re-inspection until it meets the 2-percent-or-less error rate. This past fiscal year, the fines have skyrocketed.

Here is a list of the most recent stores fined. Besides fines increasing drastically over the last year, Parker said consumer complaints to his division have also skyrocketed.

"We try to get to every location once a year, and then if there's a complaint that kind of comes in, we try to get there within 24 hours of that complaint. So we've had a lot of complaints lately, so we've been tasked with doing that."

The key to not being overcharged is to make a mental note of the price and don't get distracted when checking out, pay attention to that scanned price. The minute you catch a mistake, point it out. If you get home and notice it, take back your receipt and item to the store with proof of being overcharged. Several stores do have a scan guarantee, if it scans higher, you will receive that item for free.