Hartford - Connecticut's "one free item" retail sales law for deterring ring-up errors at the register would expand to cover foods without bar codes under legislation that has now passed both chambers of the legislature.
Under current law, if an item scans higher at checkout than its sticker or shelf price, shoppers are entitled to that item at no cost, up to a $20 value.
The bill extends the consumer-protection law to food items such as bananas, apples and tomatoes that lack a bar code and are typically weighed. It could also apply to more than one food item, such as a bag of apples.
"It's very pro-consumer in the sense of making the institutions be a little bit more careful that what they post the prices at and what they're charging their customers are reflective of one another," said state Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck. "For a lot of consumers that simply go to the grocery stores and are maybe in a rush and not necessarily paying attention, it would be completely unfair that they're walking out of these places and being charged more."
The legislation would only apply to stores that are at least 10,000 square feet in size, exempting farmers markets and many convenience stores.
On Monday, the legislation passed the House of Representatives on a 116-13 vote, with some Republican opposition. The bill cleared the Senate by a 36-0 vote April 11. It now awaits the governor's signature.
The "one free item" law applies only to consumer commodities that get "used up" over time and must be regularly replaced, such as milk, bread or a box of Band-Aids. It does not apply to items that wear out with use, such as toothbrushes.
The shopper has to point out the error and request the item for free. If the retailer does not comply, the commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection could issue businesses a warning or a fine up to $100 for the first offense. The fine could reach $500 for subsequent offenses.