For Immediate ReleaseMarch 11, 2020
New findings from Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures
San Rafael, CA – Findings in the new Marin County Consumer Protection Report show overcharging customers for services decreased slightly compared to 2018 and undercharging remained about the same.
The 2019 report, presented March 10 to the Marin County Board of Supervisors, was created by the Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures. Commissioner Stacy Carlsen said overcharging occurred at a rate of 2.3% in Marin and undercharging occurred at 2.2%. Out of 178 cases of overcharging, all resulted in the business being issued a notice of violation. Those violations were spread among 68 unique businesses, showing that some are repeat offenders.
Although there were 178 cases of customers being overcharged, that figure is down from 267 in 2018.
Although Carlsen’s weights and measures staff is comprised of only 3.3 full-time positions, employees spent 6,491 hours serving the public’s interest by ensuring accuracy and equity in the marketplace and protecting the health and welfare of Marin residents. Staff performed 10,241 inspections to ensure accuracy of measuring devices and checking the prices charged to consumers. In recent years, the department has enhanced capacity for inspections and investigations based on consumer complaints and inquiries. In all, 265 price accuracy inspections took place in Marin.
As it inspected 442 businesses over the course of the year, the department staff issued 213 notices of violation, a 4.4% increase from the 204 notices in 2018. Overall, 78% of businesses complied with price checks on initial inspection, avoiding continuous follow-up inspections. That figure is down 5% from 2018.
Consistent with past years, the most common violations were of equipment (such as scales and gasoline dispensers) not being maintained as accurate, stores overcharging customers, and customers not being able to see the price or weight of an object they were buying.
Gas pump accuracy was scored at 99.5%, the report said; just 12 red tags were issued for incorrect fuel meters. At 40 of Marin’s 67 service stations, 847 fuel dispensers passed inspection and 47 were tagged for problems.
Carlsen said there is a great emphasis on education leading to compliance rather than enforcement or penalties. Before doing inspections with new businesses, the department contacts business owners or managers to make sure requirements and expectations are clear.
Agriculture, Weights and Measures maintains a consumer help line at 415-473-7888. If a consumer believes he or she has been overcharged, becomes aware of posted prices not being honored at the check-out stand, or is unable to view the prices of items when a purchase is being rung up, please call the help line immediately so staff can investigate.
Want to watch out for yourself and others more closely? There are helpful consumer tips on the Ag, Weights & Measures website.
Stacy CarlsenCommissionerDepartment of Agriculture, Weights and Measures
1682 Novato Blvd.Suite 150-ANovato, CA 94947(415) 473-6700Email: Stacy CarlsenAWM website