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Supermarket advertising errors

I clip coupons every week to try and save a bit. This week our local 'big' supermarket had a flyer in the paper with a great deal on paper towels. I don't usually go to that store, but I did to get the deal. So I get there and there is a sign on the door saying the ad was a mistake and the paper towels are twice as much. The manager says it was an advertising error and the law allows them to fix it. But how do I know they didn't do the mistake on purpose just to get people to the store but then they change it on the door? Is that legal.

 
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Editor's Response

No, the scenario you suggest is an unfair and deceptive practice under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A (consumer Protection Act) and regulations promulgated pursuant to the Act. However, assuming the mistake was honest (as I think we must, unless you are willing to pay to litigate the matter and pay for discovery) 940 CMR 6.13 spells out how the store must deal with the mistake:

 

(1) It is an unfair or deceptive act for a seller, manufacturer, franchisor or distributor who discovers a material error in an advertisement prior to the submission date of the advertisement to fail to promptly correct any material misrepresentation in the advertisement.

(2) It is an unfair or deceptive act for a seller, manufacturer, franchisor or distributor who discovers a material error in an advertisement subsequent to the submission date of the advertisement to fail to either honor the terms of the advertisement prior to correction, or to promptly correct any material misrepresentation by clearly and conspicuously disclosing the information necessary to eliminate such misrepresentation in the same advertisement or, if not feasible, in the same advertising medium, if reasonable, and as close thereto in both proximity and time as reasonably possible, or, if neither of these options is feasible, in a posting in the store, both at the entrance to the store and close in proximity to the advertised product or through other reasonable means of communications (e.g., by a telephone sales associate for a catalog purchase prior to taking the order).  Examples of misrepresentations requiring correction include, but are not limited to, information relating to prices, product descriptions or availability of products.

(3) It is an unfair or deceptive act for a seller to fail to honor the terms of an advertisement which contains a material error, prior to posting in the store a correction of the material error, in close proximity to the advertised product, unless the material error is a “gross error” or unless the seller offers a comparable product at comparable savings, acceptable to the reasonable consumer and to all prospective buyers unable to purchase the advertised product until the corrected information has been posted within the store.  A “gross error” shall have the same meaning as provided in 940 C.M.R. 3.00.

I think you would agree that the store handled the matter properly.  I understand that the mistake was frustrating for you, but mistakes do happen.  If you notice a pattern of mistakes and subsequent corrections at that store, you might think about contacting the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs at 617-973-8787.  For more information or to post a question, visit our Massachusetts Consumer Law Discussion Forum.

 

 

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