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Michigan's Scanner Law - The Shopping Reform And Modernization Act
The Shopping Reform and Modernization Act ("Scanner Law") became effective September 1, 2011. This legislation replaces the former Pricing and Advertising of Consumer Items Act (“Item Pricing Act”). The Scanner Law is similar to the Item Pricing Act. The most important change is that while retailers are required to display the price of items offered for sale in the store where the item is located, sellers are no longer required to individually mark the price on the item itself. The Scanner Law permits the price to be displayed on shelf signs or by other methods clearly visible to consumers in the store at the place where the item is located.
This Consumer Alert provides information in response to questions about pricing requirements and consumer rights under the Scanner Law.
Scanner Error Bill Of Rights
The Scanner Law requires that the price of most items be clearly displayed. This can be done with signs, electronic readers, or price stickers.
If a scanner charges you more than the displayed price of an item, when:
- the transaction is complete; and
- you have a receipt indicating the item purchased and the price charged for it;
- You must tell the seller you were overcharged within 30 days of the transaction. This can be done in person or in writing.
- The seller must refund you the difference between the amount charged and the price displayed. The seller may also choose to pay you a “bonus” of ten times the difference. The bonus must be at least $1.00 but it may not be more than $5.00. This must be paid within two days of receiving notice of the overcharge.
- If the seller does not pay you both the refund and the bonus, you may bring a lawsuit to recover your actual damages or $250.00, whichever is greater, plus reasonable attorney fees up to $300.00.
- You may instead choose to file a complaint in a small claims court without an attorney.
Pricing And Scanner Error Questions
1. How much money do I get back when a scanner charges more than the price displayed for the item?
You are entitled to receive the difference between the displayed price and what you were charged. You are also eligible for a “bonus” of ten times the difference between the two. The bonus must be at least $1.00 but it may not be more than $5.00. If the seller does not pay the difference and the bonus, you may sue for actual damages or $250.00, whichever is greater. You may also be entitled to attorney fees of up to $300.00.
2. If a price is not displayed for a sale item and it scans for more than the sale price, do I get the sale price and the bonus?
You are entitled to the sale price but not the bonus. There must be a price displayed for the item. The item must scan for more than the price displayed for you to be entitled to the bonus.
3. If I am charged more than the displayed price for several of the same item, do I get the bonus for each item?
No. When you purchase multiple identical items in a single transaction, you are only entitled to one bonus payment. The bonus payment will be ten times the difference between the displayed price and the price you were charged for one item, but not less than $1.00 and no more than $5.00. You get the difference between the displayed price and the price you were charged for each item you purchased.
4. What items are not required to be displayed with a price in the store?
The following consumer items are not required to have the price displayed in the store at the place where the item is located:
a. items sold by weight or volume and not in packages or containers;
b. items sold in a coin-operated vending machine;
c. prepared food intended for immediate consumption;
d. items purchased by mail or through a catalog; items not visible for inspection if the price is on the consumer's order, bill, or invoice;
e. unpackaged food items;
f. items that have a total weight of not more than 3 ounces; items with a total volume of not more than 3 cubic inches; items with a total price of not more than 30 cents;
g. live plants;
h. live animals;
i. motor vehicles;
j. motor vehicle parts;
k. packages of 20 or fewer cigarettes;
l. individually sold greeting cards with a readable coded price on the back;
m. merchandise ordered by a consumer as a gift to be sent directly to the recipient.
5. What if the store has items that should have their price displayed but they don’t? Or what if the price is displayed in the store, but not in the place where the item is located?
Complaints about the improper display of prices should be directed to the Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, Weights & Measures Section in the E.C. Heffron Laboratory. Call 517-655-8202 or write to 940 Venture Lane, Williamston, MI 48895.
6. If I notify the clerk that I was overcharged for an item and the clerk corrects the overcharge, am I still entitled to the bonus?
No. The transaction must be complete. You must have a receipt showing the overcharge before you are eligible to receive the bonus.
7. Do I have to tell the seller I’ve been overcharged before I leave the store?
No. You have 30 days from the date you purchased the item to notify the seller. This must be done in person or in writing. The notice you provide must include evidence of the loss suffered. The seller has two days after notification to pay.
8. Can the seller demand I provide my contact information as a condition of paying the difference between the displayed price and the price charged or to paying the bonus?
Probably not. The Scanner Law only requires you to provide evidence of the loss suffered. When you produce the receipt, the seller will likely immediately mark the receipt. The seller has two days after notification to pay the difference and any applicable bonus. You will need to coordinate with the seller about how and when to receive the bonus if you do not want to provide contact information.
9. Can a seller provide a gift certificate as a refund for scanner overcharges?
This is a legal question best answered by a court. The Scanner Law requires the seller to pay the buyer an amount equaling the difference between the displayed price and the price charged. The seller may avoid a lawsuit by also paying the buyer a bonus equal to ten times that difference, with a minimum of $1.00 and a maximum of $5.00. Dictionaries offer differing definitions as to whether "pay" is limited to an offer of money.
10. Can I sue if I am overcharged because of a scanner error?
You must first notify the seller in person or in writing and provide evidence of the loss suffered. If the seller refunds the difference and any bonus due, you cannot sue for an additional amount. If the seller does not refund the difference and any bonus due, you may bring an individual or class action suit to recover actual damages or $250.00, whichever is greater, for each day violations of the Scanner Law are found. This would be combined with reasonable attorney fees not to exceed $300.00 in an individual action.
11. What if the store does not pay the bonus?
You can bring an individual or class action suit to recover actual damages or $250.00, whichever is greater, for each day violations of the Scanner Law are found. This would be combined with reasonable attorney fees not to exceed $300.00 in an individual action.
12. What if an item is advertised on sale but the clerk charges me the higher displayed price? Am I entitled to buy the item at the advertised sale price and receive the bonus?
You are not entitled to the bonus because you were not charged more than the price displayed for the item. Whether you are entitled to purchase the item at the advertised sale price is a question best answered by a court. The failure to sell items or services in the manner advertised, or refusal to sell at the price advertised, or in accordance with other terms and conditions of the advertisement, creates a rebuttable presumption of intent to violate the Scanner Law.
13. What if the wrong price is displayed for an item and the clerk catches it before I pay? Am I entitled to buy the item at the displayed price?
This is a question best answered by a court. It is illegal for a store to knowingly charge or attempt to charge a price higher than the price displayed for that item. You may have a claim if the store does not sell the item at the price displayed. It may be a difficult argument to win in court. It would mean convincing the court that the store knowingly charged the higher price when the pricing mistake is not intentional and would result in an obvious windfall to you, the consumer.
14. Does the Scanner Law apply to the sale of alcohol?
Yes. Alcohol is not an exempt item under the Shopping Reform and Modernization Act. Another law—the Liquor Control Code (MCL 436.1101-MCL 436.2303) must also be considered. Under the Liquor Control Code, alcoholic liquor may not be sold below the “minimum retail selling price.” This price is set by the Liquor Control Commission. Spirits must be sold at a mandated price while beer and wine may not be sold below cost. The difference between the amount charged for alcoholic beverages and the displayed price may be refundable. It is only refundable if the retailer has charged more than the minimum retail selling price.
If the consumer is due a bonus, this amount must be paid if the seller wants to preclude the buyer from bringing a lawsuit because the bonus is not a price adjustment. The payment of the bonus is an amount paid by the seller for their error and is different from the price of the alcohol.
Consumers should direct complaints regarding alcohol pricing to the Enforcement Division of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission by calling 517-284-6330 or by writing to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, 525 W. Allegan, P.O. Box 30005, Lansing, MI 48909. Violations may be reported by calling the toll-free hotline 866-893-2121.
15. Where can I report scanner error overcharge complaints?
Complaints regarding a scanner error overcharge by a store should be directed to the Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, Weights & Measures Section in the E.C. Heffron Laboratory. Call 517-655-8202 or write to 940 Venture Lane, Williamston, MI 48895.
Dollar-Bill-Sized Bill Of Rights And Questions Or Complaints
To ask questions, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Team:
Consumer Protection Team
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Online complaint form