Displayed price vs till price discrepancies, what does the CPA say?


18/04/2018 Picture the scene - you have R200 in hand to pay for two pairs of jeans clearly marked R89.99 each and suddenly the cashier says “that’ll be R379.98.”

For most people, a difference in the price displayed on the shelf for instance and the price that is displayed at the till would seem like an unlikely occurrence, but it actually happens a lot more than one would think.

Your rights and the stores responsibility

You have a right to information about the products you purchase, including the price. As per the CPA, retailers have to display correct prices in such a way that an average consumer is able to interpret them correctly. Most stores try to follow this rule, but as it so often is, things can go wrong.

Human error

Sometimes price discrepancies are a simple issue of human error. The CPA holds that you can’t unreasonably hold a store responsible for an incorrectly displayed price. Take for example a situation where a brand new laptop is priced at R52.99 instead of R5 299. Based on general knowledge, one wouldn’t expect a laptop to cost R52.99. In that case however, once alerted of the issue, the store has the responsibility to take reasonable steps to inform consumers that they’ve made a mistake and display the correct price.

Multiple prices and repricing

If a product is displayed with two different prices, the CPA entitles you to pay the lower price.

This won’t apply if for instance, the other price (usually lower) was written or altered by someone not authorised to make those changes. It is often hard to tell, so be sure to always ask a store assistant for clarity if the price looks adjusted.

Sometimes a store reprices their stock, this may be at the end of a sale for example. If the new price fully covers the old price or it is clearly indicated as the new price, then the new price is what you will pay.

Sale prices or specials

Sometimes the store’s system may not capture a special that is running at the store, so instead of paying a discounted R50 for a three item bundle, you are charged the normal price for each product - which may go unnoticed if you don’t check. Rather than having your eyes glued to your phone screen, one way to avoid being ripped off is to simply pay attention to the price monitor at the till or check your receipt to ensure you’ve paid the advertised price.

VAT increase - the effect

The recent increase in VAT has given rise to many complaints from consumers, some who still don’t understand exactly how the 1% increase changes the price of goods and others who feel stores have had enough time to re-tag their products.

This past week, a consumer bought a pair of shoes with a R399 price tag only for it to come up at R453,94 when it was scanned. The consumer was informed that there might be a price difference because of the VAT increase, which supposedly explained the increase. After doing her own calculation and demanding to speak to the manager about the issue, she was told that head office was responsible for loading prices and there was nothing they could do for her. Not quite the definition of good customer service or a reasonable explanation.

Although it has been two weeks since the VAT rate was increased, some stores’ products still have goods with price tags valued at 14% VAT. According to the CPA if you’ve been informed beforehand or if the store has announced that prices will be changing as a result of the hike, then the price of the goods can be adjusted by the 1% on checkout.

This is however different for the case discussed above because the 1% VAT increase does not explain the amount actually charged. In that situation, you can insist on paying only the additional VAT charge . Assuming the store has implemented an additional general price increase, they are obligated to display the updated prices and can't make consumers pay anything more than what was advertised or displayed.

Ideally, the price on display should be the same as what you are actually charged. But this isn’t always the case. So remember - the best time to raise a complaint with regards to price discrepancies is in-store, that way you are most likely to reach a hopefully favourable resolution! But in case you did leave the store without raising a complaint, you can always lodge one using Resolver! Don’t forget to support your complaint, as much as you can, with pictures, dates and times.

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