Dozens of stores in North Carolina were fined by the state last week over price scanning errors found during routine inspections.
According to a release from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Standards Division, a total of 61 stores in 32 North Carolina counties were fined for price scanning errors that were overcharging customers for items at checkout.
Nineteen Walmart stores, 27 Dollar General locations, six Family Dollar stores and two Target stores were fined. Additional retail stores fined included four Advance Auto Parts, as well as individual Pet Supplies Plus, Compare Foods and Petsmart locations.
Two Dollar General stores were the worst offenders. The locations in Mecklenburg and Union, N.C. each had to pay $15,000 in fines to the state.
An initial inspection of the Mecklenburg location in Nov. 2021 found a 24% error rate based on 12 overcharges in a 50-item lot. Subsequent inspections in Dec. 2021, February and April found 20.67%, 20% and 20% error rates, respectively. The store will be reinspected.
As for the Union Dollar General location, an initial inspection last October found a 20% error rate based on 10 overcharges in a 50-item lot. Subsequent inspections in Nov. 2021, February, March and April found 20.67%, 21%, and 12.33% error rates, respectively. The store passed inspection in June.
The fines were collected by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Standards Division, a regulatory agency responsible for ensuring equity, safety and quality in the marketplaces of the state.
According to the agency, it conducts periodic, unannounced inspections of price scanner systems in businesses to check for accuracy between the prices advertised and the prices that ring up at the register. “If a store has more than a 2% error rate on overcharges, inspectors discuss the findings with the store manager and conduct a more intensive follow-up inspection later,” the agency said. “Undercharges are also reported, but do not count against a store.”
The agency added that penalties are assessed if a store fails a follow-up inspection. In addition to the penalties paid, the store will be subject to re-inspection every 60 days from the last inspection until it meets the 2% or less error rate. Additional penalties may be assessed if a store fails a re-inspection.
“Our Standards Division continues to see a significant increase in stores with price scanner errors, as many stores continue to deal with staffing shortages,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, said in a statement. “Overcharges cost consumers so we remain vigilant in inspecting stores in order to protect consumers. It is always a good practice for consumers to check their receipts as well as the price on the shelf to make sure that they are paying the correct amount and alert managers if they are not correct.”
The most recent round of fines wasn’t the first time stores in North Carolina have been caught overcharging customers. Seven stores were fined in the first quarter of 2022, including multiple Walmart and Dollar General locations. In total, 42 stores were fined earlier this year, according to state officials.