Walmart charged with pricing violations -- again

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Woman shops at a Wal-Mart storeWalmart is in hot water -- again -- for allegedly improperly pricing multiple items in its stores. This time in Connecticut.

Inspectors say they caught two stores, in New Haven and Shelton, violating state pricing laws despite previous warnings.
The state Department of Consumer Protection said dozens of items, including detergent, deodorant, fruit juice, oatmeal, butter, potato chips, and maple syrup did not have the required unit price label on the shelves. The unit price (often indicated next to the "price you pay" on a price tag) was missing in most of these instances, DCP Commissioner Jerry Farrell, Jr. told Consumer Ally.

"The consumer loses out without getting this essential piece of information, because even if they know what an item's bottom-line price is, it's harder to do comparison shopping," said Farrell, who pointed out that Connecticut state law requires unit pricing on all consumer commodities. "It's sloppiness on Wal-Mart's part that the information isn't there. The manager needs to make sure that this information gets listed. It's absolutely the store's fault."

Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In the past, the company has said it is committed to price accuracy.

Unit pricing is designed to help consumers compare prices using some standard measure, such as weight or volume.

These allegations are nothing new for the retail giant, which has failed price accuracy tests before. As in the current case, past problems in Arizona included numerous instances of not posting prices, giving consumers no way to know what certain items cost until they went to the register.

Most recently, complaints by a consumer advocacy group also forced Walmart to remove mislabeled organic products from its shelves.

During the December 2009 inspection of the New Haven store, an agency inspector checked 50 consumer commodities, nine of which were found to be unit priced incorrectly. After notifying the store's managers, and after a repeat visit this month, an inspector found that 17 out of 50 items failed the agency's economic compliance checks.

Similarly, a November 2009 inspection of the Shelton store revealed that 12 out of 25 items checked for unit pricing were incorrectly labeled. During a March visit, 15 out of 50 products were mislabeled.

Walmart is not alone in being accused of pricing violations. Several other chains, including CVS Caremark Corp., have been fined for price inaccuracies.

A hearing in the Connecticut case is scheduled for May 31. If the issue is not resolved beforehand, Walmart could be subject to penalties of about $20,000 to $30,000, Ferrell said.
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