Attention shoppers: Overcharged for an item at checkout? You might be able to get it for free

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Planning to spend big this holiday season after last year’s lockdown? It pays to check your bill before leaving the store.

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Not only can you catch a mistake, but if you overcharge for an item, you may be able to get it for free or even at a discount.

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More than 7,000 retail stores in Canada – including many large chains – are members of Voluntary Scanner Price Accuracy Codes.

Managed by the Retail Council of Canada (RCC), the code mandates that buyers are entitled to compensation when they are overcharged for certain items scanned at checkout.

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“I love it,” said Roxanne Joshua of Newcastle, Ont., who learned about the code more than a decade ago. Over the years, she says, she’s been compensated nearly 150 times after catching pricing errors so far.

“It’s great for a few reasons,” she said. “One, obviously, I get free items or discounted items. But two, it also holds the stores accountable.”

how to get your discount

Canada Price Accuracy Scanner Code has been around for almost two decades, however, many buyers are still not aware of it. The code was created in 2002 by retail organizations to boost consumer confidence as stores began to adopt scanning devices at checkout.

“There was an element of a lack of trust in the machines that read the barcodes,” said Greg Wilson, the Canadian Retail Council’s director of government relations in B.C.

The code applies to participating retailers throughout the country except Quebec, which has provincial laws covering retail pricing errors.

Here’s how the code works: When a customer alerts a retailer that the price of a scanned item is higher than the advertised price at checkout, participating retailers must honor the lower price.

On top of that, if the item costs more than $10, the customer gets a $10 discount. If the item costs less than $10, the customer gets the item for free.

On Monday, Karen Melo of Leamington, Ont., purchased a Roku streaming device at Best Buy. The advertised price in the store was $44.99, she said, however, when the cashier scanned the item at checkout, he was charged $64.99.

When Melo pointed out the error and mentioned the code—of which the store is a member—she said she was charged a lower price and received a $10 discount.

“Instead of $65, I paid $35,” she said. ,[The code]”To me, it ensures that a retailer is trying to be honest.”


The code applies to scanned items where a low price ad is displayed on flyers, online ads or in stores – such as on a shelf.

However, individually priced items are not covered by the code, and do not include weighed items, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter cosmetics.

Participating retailers include major chains such as Best Buy, Canadian Tire, Costco, Home Depot, Lobla, Shoppers Drug Mart, Sobies, Toys “R” Us and Walmart Canada.

Participants should post a sign about the code at or near the store’s entrance. However, buyers may not notice this unless they are aware of the existence of the code.

Joshua said he first learned about the code by reading about it in an online blog.

A memorable experience for him was when he bought bathroom items, including faucets and tile, for a renovation project at Home Depot. All eight items were priced wrong when they were scanned, he said, so he found a $10 discount on each.

“I felt like I almost won the lottery,” she said. “Now the extra $80 was back in my pocket.”

But the process isn’t always seamless, she warns. Joshua said there have been times when he struggled with a store employee to get compensation because the employee was not aware of the code.

“I think if the staff is a little more educated, we won’t have this type of problem,” she said.

While new employees may sometimes not be as educated about the code, RCC’s Wilson said in general, the system works well. “We actually get a very small amount of complaints about it,” he said.

Customers who have unresolved disputes related to the code may contact the code’s complaint line: 1-866-499-4599.

Melo said she once called the complaint line after a major retailer’s cashier refused to honor the low, advertised price on two umbrellas she wanted to buy.

After the call, she said, the dispute was quickly resolved and she got more than the deal she had made.

“I got a call from the manager after a while. He said, ‘You can come and get four umbrellas.’ [for free] To make up for this mistake.'”

Why is the code not mandatory?

in QuebecAll retailers must comply with mandatory price accuracy laws that are similar to codes. also in the province enacted rules For most personal value goods, the retailer must honor the lower ticketed price by mandating that when customers are charged a higher price at checkout.

look | Shoppers Drug Mart customers complain that they were tempted to use self-checkout:

The scanner price accuracy code does not apply to individual priced items, Wilson explained, because the issue is covered by Canada’s Competition Act, that prohibits Prohibiting retailers from making false or misleading claims about the price of a product.

So if a retailer refuses to honor the price of a ticket under that act, the customer will have to file a complaint with the Competition Bureau and await the outcome of the investigation.

Consumer advocate and lawyer Daniel Tsai said he believes there should be a mandatory rule for all retailers – at least for large chains – that mandate that they have a low-ticket or advertised price of an item. Must be respected.

“As a general rule, it makes sense that the price you see as a customer should be the price you pay.”

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