Smiley: Repeal of Item Pricing Law Will Hurt Michigan Families, Seniors

Representative votes against eliminating longtime consumer protection measure
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

LANSING - State Representative Charles Smiley (D-Burton) today voted against legislation that will hurt Michigan families by removing key consumer protections that shield customers from price gouging and fluctuating prices. The House of Representatives passed the plan to repeal Michigan’s item pricing law, which will leave consumers susceptible to being overcharged and victimized by discriminatory pricing practices.

“The item pricing law is an important consumer protection that Michigan residents need now more than ever,” Smiley said. “With families being squeezed in all directions these days - especially our seniors on fixed incomes - every penny counts. People deserve to know how much they are paying for products, and they shouldn’t have to worry about that changing by the time they get up to the checkout counter.

“Eliminating the item pricing law leaves far too much opportunity for shoppers to be accidentally overcharged or intentionally ripped off. “

The legislation will repeal the Item Pricing Act, a key consumer protection that helps shield consumers from price gouging by requiring that the prices of individual products be clearly and conspicuously labeled. For more than 30 years, Michigan’s item pricing law has helped ensure that Michigan residents are not exploited or overcharged by retailers.

Smiley called into question a commonly cited report that claims that eliminating Michigan’s item pricing law will save the state and consumers $2.2 billion. That claim is based on an earlier report that found that groceries in states with item pricing laws cost an average of 8 percent to 10 percent more than in states without similar laws. Those percentages were then compared with the $24.3 billion that Michigan consumers spend annually on groceries and other household items to produce the $2.2 billion estimate.

However, that is based on research done in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut - not in Michigan stores - and therefore does not accurately reflect the impact of Michigan’s item pricing law.

“It is an outrage that legislators are rushing to end a law that has protected Michigan consumers well for three decades,” Smiley said, “but to do so based on faulty research makes it even worse.”