consumer law

California Unit Pricing Law

When comparison shopping at the supermarket, trying to find the best bargain could be challenging because manufacturers produce canned, bottled and packaged goods in odd quantities. If we are comparing between a 5 lb. and 10 lb. bag of flour, the task is relatively easy. Does the 10 lb. bag cost twice as much as the 5 lb. bag?

However, when looking at a 46 ounce and 52 ounce bottle, pulling out the calculator (or smartphone) may be needed. Thankfully, many stores provide unit pricing information on the product tag, which will show the per ounce price of each bottle.

As it turns out, in California, the state unit pricing law is found in the Business and Professions Code; however, calling it a law may be overstating it a bit considering its voluntary nature.

It is the intent of the Legislature to encourage the unit pricing of all canned, bottled, and packaged foods, packaged produce, and bakery goods; paper, plastic, wood, and metal products packaged
in counts greater than 10; rolled paper, plastic, and metal products; canned, bottled, and packaged domestic, laundry and household cleansing, finishing, waxing, and polishing products; drug and first
aid products canned, packaged, or bottled in counts greater than 10; and frozen fruits and vegetables, offered by merchants in their places of business for sale at retail to the public.

I find that having the information is helpful not just from the point of being an educated consumer, but that it helps lower the obstacles to making a purchasing decision. The store would probably prefer that a consumer look at the unit pricing information and buy instead of standing in the aisle and calculating math problems.

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