Wal-Mart faces legal action on item pricing

/ Source: The Associated Press

An investigation by the state attorney general’s office at five Wal-Mart stores found up to 80 percent of the merchandise didn’t carry price tags, Attorney General Mike Cox said Wednesday.

While an Okemos store near Lansing had price tags on 75 percent of its merchandise, only 25 percent of items in a Saginaw store had tags. Stores in Roseville, Coldwater and Howell put price tags on 20 percent of their merchandise.

In four of the stores’ grocery sections, only 1 percent to 10 percent of items had price tags, Cox said.

“To just so arrogantly ignore the law is surprising,” he noted at a news conference. “You are clearly putting consumers at a clear disadvantage.”

A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Wednesday that quick price changes make it tough for the retailer to meet the law’s requirements.

“We stock hundreds of thousands of items and can make more than 5,000 price changes per week, often lowering prices on certain items during the course of the day,” Kelly Hobbs said in a statement. “We are constantly working to adjust our prices to offer our customers the best possible price.”

Cox said he is taking legal action against Wal-Mart by filing a notice of intended action against the Bentonville, Ark.-based company. Wal-Mart has 10 days to take substantial steps to comply with the law and could face fines of up to $5,000 for each infraction if it doesn’t act.

Wal-Mart has 40 supercenters and 37 discount stores in Michigan, along with 25 Sam’s Club stores and two distribution centers. It employed 29,233 people in the state as of January, company figures show.

Michigan is the only state in the nation that requires price tags on almost every item in stores. If consumers are charged more than the price marked, they can demand the difference plus 10 times the amount of the difference, up to $5.

Michigan isn’t the only state investigating Wal-Mart. In January, the company agreed to pay $25,000 to settle allegations it overcharged customers at some Wisconsin stores by using scales that didn’t automatically subtract the weight of the bags used to buy bulk items such as grapes and grind-it-yourself coffee.