COLUMBIANA COUNTY The price is right? Official checks out store scanners to make sure

Consumers should ensure prices are being rung up accurately, a county official advises.
LISBON -- The Columbiana County Auditor's Office is resuming a full-fledged effort to ensure the accuracy of product price-scanning devices used by many merchants.
Terry Madison, the county's weights and measures inspector, resumed the checks in January, Auditor Nancy Milliken said Monday.
Madison's goal is to visit stores in the county this year to ensure the price scanners commonly used to tabulate purchases are accurate.
So far, Madison has checked about 30 stores. In about half of those he found inaccuracies, some favoring the buyer and some favoring the store, Milliken said.
In all the instances so far, the inaccuracies appear inadvertent and not the result of the store's trying to swindle customers.
Unannounced visit: To conduct an inspection, Madison shows up at a store unannounced and uses his own scanning device to scan prices. He then has the same items scanned by the store to ensure they match.
If not, the store is given up to three weeks to fix the problem. An unannounced re-inspection will be conducted to determine that they have.
Any merchant who refuses to cooperate can face fines of up to $500, Milliken said.
Shoppers should always watch when checking out at the register to ensure prices are being accurately scanned, and notify the cashier if any discrepancies are noted, Milliken said.
Consumers may call the auditor's office if they notice continued inaccuracies or suspect cheating.
The county has not conducted regular price-scanning inspections since fall 1999, when its last inspector resigned to take another job.
Severe budget constraints prevented another inspector, Madison, from being hired until early 2001.
Until now, he has devoted most of his time to catching up on the annual accuracy checks for gasoline pumps, scales and meters on home heating oil delivery trucks.
With those inspections now current, he can devote time to ensuring price scanners' accuracy, Milliken said.

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