Outside Legal Counsel PLC

Governor Snyder Calls for End of Price Item Law, But What Is It Really?

For Immediate Release | Jan 22, 2011

In his first State of the State address, newly inaugurated Michigan Governor Rick Snyder called for an end to certain provisions of Michigan's Pricing and Advertising of Consumer Items Act, Act 449 of 1976, also known as the Michigan Price Item Law. He said requiring price tags on every item is “antiquated.”

But the current law is much more than just about price stickers.

Under the "Price Item Law," retailers are required to clearly and conspicuously display the total price of consumer items displayed or offered for sale. Such pricing must be on or affixed to the consumer item for a readable and understandable visual inspection.

Various items are exempt from this requirement including live plants and animals, motor vehicles and parts, packages of 20 or fewer cigarettes, greeting cards sold individually, certain foodstuffs prepared for immediate consumption, and any consumer item which has a total weight of not more than 3 ounces, a total volume of not more than 3 cubic inches, and a total price of not more than 30 cents.

A 1985 amendment created the "Scanning Award," which incentivizes retailers to provide a refund of the difference between the amount charged and the price-marked plus ten times the difference up to $5.00 when an automatic checkout system charges more than the marked price of an item.

The law also explicitly outlaws untrue, deceptive, or misleading advertising as well as makes illegal the irritating sales practice known as a bait-and-switch. All advertised prices must be honored for at least 5 days with the advertisement required to list the dates the consumer item is available at the advertised price. If an item is unavailable, a rain-check must be provided unless a sign is conspicuously posted stating the reason for the unavailability.

The Price Item Law also mandates that real estate advertisements contain no language expressing discrimination based on race, creed, color, national origin, sex, or marital status. Newspaper and media publishers are explicitly granted legal immunity from its advertisers' false or deceptive advertisements.

The Pricing and Advertising of Consumer Items Act is administered by the Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture as well as the State Director of Weights and Measures within the Department of Agriculture. Enforcement can be undertaken by the Attorney General, a county prosecuting attorney, or a private party in certain circumstances.

A full copy of the law can be downloaded from the Michigan Legislature’s website. The Attorney General’s office has also recently issued an updated Consumer Alert on the law.

Philip L. Ellison, MBA, JD, Esq is an attorney, business counselor, and civil litigator with Michigan-based Outside Legal Counsel PLC. He has extensive experience in law, business management, corporate operations as well as internal and external communications. Visit his online profile at www.olcplc.com