By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense (IDEC) found differing shelf and checkout prices in five supermarkets in Brazil during a recent study. One item studied showed a 31 percent increase in price at the register compared to its stated shelf price.
To conduct the study the IDEC visited five supermarket chains: Extra, Pão de Açúcar, Sonda, Carrefour and Walmart. Two separate stores from each chain were visited in São Paulo.
At each of the ten stores, 45 to 46 products were selected and their shelf prices were recorded at the time of placing them in the shopping carts. Once at the checkout, the optical reader prices were then also recorded.
In their research IDEC found numerous issues including: items without labels, items with no stated shelf price, problems with registers’ optical readers and numerous price discrepancies in the labeled and checkout prices.
The discrepancies included negatively divergent values, or to put it more simply, the IDEC shoppers were charged more at checkout for some items then what they were lead to believe by the items’ labels on the shelves.
The results from the Pão de Açúcar supermarket chain showed the most noticeable differences. At one Pão de Açúcar store, eleven of the 46 items purchased had divergent prices. The discrepancies ranged from checkout price increases of R$0.09 to R$5.25. One can of powered milk priced at R$16.90 on the shelf, rang up at R$22.15 at the register. That R$5.25 difference represents a 31 percent increase in price.
The research also found that four products in Carrefour had divergent prices at the time of the study. Results from Extra and Walmart each showed three products with divergent prices while Sonda was culpable for having two items that were labelled differently on the shelves compared to their checkout prices.
According to the Consumer Protection Code (CDC), stores are in agreement to refund the overcharges in cases of shelf and checkout price discrepancies.
“When [divergent prices] happen, the store is required to reimburse the consumer. Otherwise, the consumer should contact the Procon [Office of Consumer Protection] and make a complaint,” Carlos Thadeu de Oliveira, technical manager of IDEC, told O Globo.
During the IBEC study all stores were compliant and reimbursed the shoppers for the overcharges with the exception of Carrefour, which reportedly only reversed the charges partially, returning the difference of only two of the four overcharged items.
Although the research was conducted solely in São Paulo, the same issues appear in Rio de Janeiro supermarkets. The president of the Supermarkets Association of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Asserj), Aylton Fornari, spoke with O Globo in acknowledgement of the issues.
When accounting for the reasons behind the price differences Fornari said, “It turns out that the core system updates the prices of supermarkets and then they are printed. However, the employees who label them on the shelves sometimes forget or take a few hours to do it.”
Fornari went on to speak of possible future solutions for supermarkets in Rio, saying, “Therefore, we are considering the adoption of a pricing system with digital panels instead of printed, so there is less human interference. Considering that that process is expensive, it might take at least another year for it to be deployed in Rio. In São Paulo there are already two or three shops testing the system.”