Inflation impacts all consumers in the pocketbook, but to add insult to injury, many consumers are finding that they are being overcharged at the register when they shop at local businesses. Many businesses are struggling to keep up with the pace of price changes caused by recent inflationary pressures. A business may have thousands of products they must track and update for price adjustments within their point-of-sale systems (checkout scanners). Keeping up with commodity price changes is nothing new for a business, but the last two-and-half years has seen this process occur at a faster pace and affect a higher volume of products than normal.
It is the business’s responsibility to ensure that their advertised prices are accurate. That burden does not fall on the shoulders of the consumer. State law authorizes county weights and measures officials to hold the business legally responsible for overcharging consumers at the register. Any business charging more than their posted or advertised price is guilty of a misdemeanor subject to punitive action set forth in law.
In 2022, Sonoma County Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures (AWM) inspectors conducted 636 price verification inspections at local businesses and inspected 18,509 individual items. Of the 636 inspections, 234 were recorded as failed inspections, representing 36.8% of the total inspections. Many of the failed inspections, 211 of them, were re-inspections of businesses which failed their initial inspection for the year. Businesses that do not pass their annual inspection are subject to follow-up inspections until the business demonstrates that they meet pricing accuracy standards set forth in state law.
In 2022, AWM issued 150 administrative penalties to many local businesses that failed to meet pricing accuracy standards. Businesses who are not showing progress toward complying with the law, are referred to the local Consumer District Attorney for review and possible civil action. The law is clear on the matter – businesses are prohibited from charging a higher price than the price that is advertised, posted, or quoted at their place of business.
If you have been overcharged by a local business, point it out to the business and give them the opportunity to make it right. If they refuse to honor their lowest posted or advertised price, please call our office to file your complaint. Our inspectors are ready to review your case and to investigate any violations of local or state consumer laws. You can contact our office by calling (707) 565-2371.