On September 1, the Michigan "New Scanner Law" went into effect, allowing retailers to stop marking the price of an item on the item itself, and instead display the price of the item somewhere kind of nearby. From the Michigan AG's office:
In March 2011, the Michigan Legislature passed the Shopping Reform and Modernization Act ("Scanner Law"), with an effective date of September 1, 2011. While the new Scanner Law retains many provisions of the former Pricing and Advertising of Consumer Items Act ("Item Pricing Act"), the most fundamental change is that retailers are required to display the price of items offered for sale in the store at the place where the item is located, but are no longer required to individually mark the price on the item itself. The new Scanner Law permits the price to be displayed by signage, electronic reader, or any other method that clearly conveys the price to a consumer when in the store at the place where the item is located.
Take that for what it's worth; the Michigan AG's office disclaims its own authority to tell you what it thinks about the laws it enforces.*
*From the site: "The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern. Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General."
How's the law working out? One local blogger couldn't figure out how much the discounted shirts he wanted really were going to cost:
While it's probably too early to blame it on the New Scanner Law — which lets retailers display the price of items at the place where the item is located but no longer requires prices on the items themselves — I had a terrible time figuring out how much some items cost this weekend.
At one store, the sign on a shelf of polo shirts read that they were on sale for $7.48, which was a great deal considering their usual price of $12.99. But when I checked out the price rang up as $10 — still a good deal, but not as good as $7.48.
The cashier did a check on the price and said that only the polo shirts on the shelf that had $7.48 clearance stickers on the tags were actually that price; the rest were $10. But from reading the sign, you'd never know that until you checked out.
At another store, a set of Disney princess dolls was marked down to $9 from $16.99. The price wasn't marked on the packaging but was on the shelf directly below the items. When we checked out, however, the dolls rang up at $11.89 — still a good deal, but not as good as $9.
The law provides a bounty of sorts for the consumer who actually was ripped off. Again, from the nonbinding, "don't take our word for it" office of the Michigan Attorney General:
If an automatic checkout system (scanner) charges you more than the displayed price of an item, and: 1) the transaction has been completed, and 2) you have a receipt indicating the item purchased and the price charged for it. Then: You must notify the seller that you were overcharged, within 30 days of the transaction, either in person or in writing. Within two days of receiving your notice, the seller may choose to refund you the difference between the amount charged and the price displayed plus a "bonus" of ten times the difference, with a minimum of $1.00 and a maximum of $5.00. If the seller refuses to give 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.
Ten times the difference in price!
Um, up to $5.00.
Consumers, and their lawyers, can't be blamed for hoping the store refuses the refund and the bonus -- at least, those lawyers who feel like taking on a case for a total of $300 in fees.
Let's say a retailer -- hypothetically, we'll call them something like, I don't know, Mal-Mart, mismarks a t-shirt as costing $5, and then charges you $10 at the cash register. The consumer, no dummy, says, "Hey, you overcharged me, and I'd like my $5 plus my $5 bonus."
Mal-Mart, which, hypothetically speaking, has $419,000,000,000 in revenues in 2011 alone and has a 95-page document outlining how outside lawyers can bill it for services, then refuses, after which a consumer hires a savvy (?) consumer lawyer, who files suit to get that sweet, sweet, $250... plus $300 in attorney's fees...
... and Mal-Mart, hypothetically, will then... what? Settle? Or file multipage answer filled with so many objections and hyperbole that it's like their lawyers are being paid by the character?