Scanner Warning Signs OK'd in San Diego

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Scanner Warning Signs OK'd in San Diego

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego County shoppers will soon have a new weapon: notices posted in stores with price scanners that overcharge consumers. The county Board of Supervisors yesterday approved a program that allows the warning signs to be placed for 10 days at stores that fail inspections.

Under the program, notices will be posted on windows at each entrance of a store that has overcharged for a single item by more than $1 or has overcharged more than one item. The board voted 4-1 for the program, with Supervisor Ron Roberts voting no. Roberts said the program punishes merchants who make mistakes.

Representatives of the California Grocers Association and the California Independent Grocers and Convenience Store Association complained that posting notices on stores that overcharge by $1 was unfair. They recommended the threshold be increased to $3.

"We scan a tremendous number of items on a daily basis and there's going to be human error," said Gilbert Canizales of the California Grocers Association.

County staff members said they relied on state law that says overcharging by $1 is an offense. The program will take effect in mid-October. It will affect retail stores in unincorporated areas and cities.

The county inspects c-stores, supermarkets and other retail outlets to check that the prices scanned into cash registers are the prices advertised and listed on shelves.

The June study by the county's Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures showed that since 1999 overcharges were discovered on more than 1,700 items, totaling $3,178, at stores that were inspected. Lower prices were charged for about 500 items, totaling $1,110.

The notices will be 8-1/2 by 11 inches and say in big, bold letters: "Notice of Penalty for Failed Inspection." The notices also will provide a phone number that consumers can use to complain about pricing problems.

The program will also reward stores that are accurate. Stores that pass inspections can post similar-sized notices on their windows for 10 days that say "Notice of Passing Inspection."