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Consumer activist Mary Bach may shop at Walmart, but she doesn't appear to be the company's biggest fan.
For the fifth time, the Pennsylvania resident sued the retailer for price discrepancies she says are endemic to its system. This particular incident involved 2 cents and a package of Banquet Brown-n-Serve sausages.
A judge awarded Bach $100 in damages and $80 in court costs. He agreed that Walmart was engaging in unfair trade practices.
You're probably wondering how 2 cents can form the basis of a lawsuit. To understand, we have to start at the beginning.
When Mary Bach first bought a package of sausages, a cashier refunded the 2 cent overcharge. A supervisor was likely notified, as they must usually sign off on refunds. When Bach returned to the store six days later, Consumerist reports that she was overcharged again.
Ordinarily, retailers have procedures for changing known price discrepancies. This is because they are legally bound to ensure that posted prices match those in scanning software.
Pennsylvania's unfair trade practices statute makes it illegal to "advertise goods or services with the intent not to sell them as advertised." This applies to posted prices. Because the store's managerial staff decided not to change the computer or price tag, Walmart arguably intended not to sell the sausages as advertised.
If the store had been unaware of the issue, the outcome likely would have been different.
As for why Mary Bach received such a hefty sum, the law also makes provisions for recovery. An individual bringing a private action is entitled to actual damages or $100--whichever is greater. One-hundred dollars is obviously greater than 2 cents. Courts are also permitted to award fees.