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Inspections Find Many New York City Supermarkets Overcharging Customers

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A woman stands in a supermarket aisle June 11, 2009 in New York City. (credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

A woman stands in a supermarket aisle June 11, 2009 in New York City. (credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Juliet Papa Juliet Papa
Juliet Papa is an award-winning reporter for 1010 WINS Radio, the...
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Not only are prices going up at your local supermarket they also may not always be right.

“Supermarkets failing inspections 59 percent of the time still have not gotten the message,” Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz said. “We are finding repeated violations regarding a failure to put the prices on the items as required by the law, charging too much at the register, charging tax when no tax is supposed to be charged.”

1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports: Are You Being Scammed?

EXTRA: Tips On How To Save At The Supermarket (pdf)

Last year, the city promised to double the number of inspections and crack down on stores that were overcharging. Turns out it didn’t work.

Inspectors visited nearly 2,000 stores in all five boroughs and found inaccuracies on price tags, scanners and scales. One in three items in the review were overpriced, according to Mintz.

The most common violations were for failure to mark proper quantities and provide required accountability information on food packaged in the store, adding tax to non-taxable items, charging the wrong prices at the check-out counter, failing to affix price tags on individual items, and maintaining inaccurate scales or failing to make scales available to customers for products sold by weight.

An Associated Supermarket on Manhattan’s East Side has been slapped with violations before. The manager said it’s just an oversight.

“Occasionally price might not go through properly. Customers bring it to attention. We correct it as soon as possible,” Norman Quintanilla said.

A year ago, inspectors found 48 percent of supermarkets complied with accurate pricing polices. Compliance has since dropped to 41 percent.

Pricing problems can happen anywhere. The Department of Consumer Affairs suggest you look for price tags, freshness dates on perishable food like eggs, dairy, and baked goods, and scales available for customers to use in produce areas.

Mintz is proposing legislation which would require supermarkets to pay customers 10 times the amount of the overcharged item and give them the item for free.

“I believe that when customers get overcharged, supermarkets should pay for it not profit from it,” Mintz said.

The law would also triple existing fines. Currently, fines for some violations range from $25 to $300.

Connecticut and Michigan have similar laws on the books.

On Thursday, the Department introduced the Shop Act, where customers would get the item for free if overcharged and ten times the amount of the overcharge.

Consumers looking to file an official overcharge complaint can call 311 or visit nyc.gov/consumers. New Yorkers can also http://twitter.com/nycdca using the hashtag #nickeled&dimed and post to the Consumer Affairs Facebook page.

Why do you think food prices are going up? Sound off in our comments section below…

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