After years of debate, Michigan lawmakers last year voted to repeal the law that required stores to label each item with its own price tag.
The change went into effect in September of 2011. Some shopper still miss the law.
"Sometimes it’s nice to know before you get up to the cash register when you're buying something, in case it's more than you think it is," said Kathleen Benson, of Royal Oak.
Now, an advocacy group called Michigan Citizen Action has released a report that criticizes the repeal of item pricing, and it makes the argument the repeal has been bad for consumers.
"I think its devastating for seniors that are living on a limited budget that we don't know what we're purchasing," said Millie Hall, a Senior Citizen and Consumer Advocate.
The impact, according to Michigan Citizen Action
The report from Michigan Citizen Action found the change in the law has hurt retail workers, who suffered wage reductions. It says there has not been enough consumer education about the law. And, it says Michigan grocery prices which consumers were told would go down, have actually gone up at a faster rate than the national average. During the debate in 2011, consumers were told the savings would be significant.
Jeff Howard is the Board Chairman of Michigan Citizen Action. He said. "It was going to save two billion dollars for consumers, right? And we just haven't found that."
Retailers launch defense
The Michigan Retailers Association disputes those findings. It says Michigan grocery prices have actually increased less than the national average. It also cites research that found wages are up for food and beverage establishments.
We found a Ferndale mother who sympathizes with retailers.
"I don't usually look at an item and wonder what the price is, because I can see it right on the shelf-, and then it's just more waste like tags and stickers and things," said Marisa Prince as she shopped with her young daughter.
Michigan Citizen Action also blasts the Michigan Attorney General's office for not doing enough to educate consumers, claiming it spent only $6200 of a $100,000 dollar appropriation for education.
"It seems sort of shallow to say, or to suggest that we've done all we can do to educate consumers," said Jeff Howard, Board Chairman of Michigan Citizen Action.
The Attorney General's office disputes that figure, saying it's spent almost $47,000, and has done a lot of outreach through programs that already exist, like the Senior's Brigade workshops. We will post a list of programs the Attorney General's office says have helped to educate consumers at the end of this article.
Protect yourself, buyer beware
For shoppers, the most frustrating thing may be possible confusion at the grocery store. Michigan Citizen Action says it has found cases where the prices do not match from the store shelf to the cash register. And, that means you need to be a vigilant shopper.
"Ask questions of their retailer to say. Where's the price for this? Why is this price not matching up?" urged Howard.
Attorney General Information- Below is the Attorney General's response to the report from Michigan Citizen Action. It includes some links to information that shoppers might find helpful.
The alleged scanner law consumer education spending figure cited in the Michigan Citizen Action report released today is off by a mile. To date, the Attorney General’s Office has spent nearly half -- $46,902.14 -- of the $100,000 appropriation for consumer education on the scanner law update.
We have been frugal with taxpayer dollars by incorporating new education into existing consumer programs, like our popular Senior Brigade presentations presented to thousands of seniors. If spending money with reckless abandon solved problems, the federal government would have solved everything some time ago.
The funds were used efficiently and for the following seven different consumer education efforts, all of which will continue in the future as part of our regular consumer education efforts:
1.SENIOR BRIGADE PRESENTATIONS: We incorporated new educational materials in Senior Brigade, our popular consumer education program presented statewide. The Attorney General’s office sends speakers to educate citizens on consumer issues at local civic, senior citizen, church, consumer, and other community groups. There were 563 public presentations given from when the law passed through September 30, 2012. Website: www.seniorbrigade.com
2. PRICING BILL OF RIGHTS: Printed and are in the process of distributing 75,000 copies of our popular "Pricing Bill of Rights" card. This wallet-sized card explaining consumer rights under the Shopping Reform and Modernization Act replaced the popular “Item Pricing Bill of Rights” card found here. This is our most popular publication and continues to be distributed at all Senior Brigade seminars and at senior fairs and expos across the state.
3. WEBPAGE: Established the webpage that highlights our resources: www.michigan.gov/agscannerlaw
4. CONSUMER ALERT: Drafted and distributed a new consumer alert addressing changes to the scanner law.
5. SAVVY CONSUMER BROCHURE: Our Encouraging Savvy Consumers brochure addresses changes to the law. This is distributed at events across the state.
6. SENIOR EDUCATION BOOKLET: Our Protect Yourself, Protect Your Future booklet is provided to seniors across the state and addresses the new law (see section pp. 23-24).
7. WEBINARS: We hosted two webinars immediately following the change to the law and continue to host the recorded webinar on our website for consumers to view any time. You can access the webinar at: www.michigan.gov/agscannerlaw