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Barcode Scan Price Errors


It should not be possible to scan any label other than the label that would scan at the correct price. The code doesn’t specify it has to be the correct barcode in the case where negligent or incompetent (or both) staff have left two scannable barcodes - it simply indicates what happens if the item scans at the wrong price, which in this case it did. I noticed it, then found the other barcode on the side.

This wasn’t the argument they used, however had they I’d just hand it back to them and compliment them on their excellence in splitting hairs and ignoring the intent of the code. Customer relations …

Interesting choice of words - Refer back to my comment on staff making sure only one barcode is scannable - which they usually do.


Yes in an ideal world.

As indicated in an earlier post, there has been a trend particularly for some packaged products to have large elongated barcodes which run the length/height of the packaging (possibly for faster operator scanning?). These are impracticable to cover as one would need to cover the whole side of of the package to ensure that when one item product is individually marked down, it can’t be scanned. It doesn’t take much of the bacrode to be visible for the barcode to be recognised by the scanner.

There has also been discission in the retail sector that there may be an eventual move towards Digimarc Barcodes. I imagine if an when these are adopted by the packaging industry nationally, this would make individual markdown labelling impossible unless the whole product is somehow covered in a unreadable cover. I expect the code would be reviewed then introduction on Digimarc barcodes or similar occurs.

The code states the wrong ‘shelf price’. The definition is as follow:

“Shelf Label” means the label or sign which shows the price of an item and is placed on
display in the place where the product is displayed for sale.
“Shelf Price” is the price of an item that appears on a shelf label.

If the non-marked down barcode is scanned, it could be reasonable argued that the price shown on the register is the same as the Shelf Price. Therefore clause 4 of the code does not apply.

If the shelf price also showed a markdown price for all items but the original product barcode still scanned the unmarked down price, then yes, one could argue that it was a scan error and clause 4 would apply. In such case I can’t imagine a retailer placing a marked down price on the shelf and then individually marking each item on the same shelf as it would be counterproductive. It would be easier to just adjust the instore computer to reflect the new marked down shelf price.

Clause 4 states:

Where a customer makes a valid claim that an item has scanned at a higher price than the
shelf price, the following shall apply:
(a) If the shelf price of the item is $20 or less, the customer will be entitled to the item free of charge; or
(b) if the shelf price of the item is higher than $20, the customer will be entitled to purchase the item at the shelf price, with a discount of $20.mer makes a valid claim that an item has scanned at a higher price than the shelf price, with a discount of $20

There is also the reasonable person test. If one was asked what the shelf price was, I am sure that almost all customers would go to the shelf and point to the price shown on the edge of the shelf…showing the product price. I am sure that they would not point to a marked down label on a individual product.


It’s fairly clear however that the intent of the code is to ensure that the price that scans is the price that is displayed - in the case of a markdown this is clearly the price on the label. Obviously the supermarket will refer to the letter of the code rather than the intent, but that’s a given …


Yes, the price scanned is the same as the shelf price. If there is operator error, either by the customer or the checkout assistant (such as scanning the original product barcode rather than the marked down sticker barcode), then this is outside the resolution process outlined in clause 4 of the code.

A store would then be entitled to cancel the item at full price and then rescan using the marked down price once realised by the operator/customer. This is consistent with the code and its intent/objective.

It is worth noting that the purpose of the code is to ensure that the stores computer system pricing used at the checkout is the same as that displayed on the shelves. In cases where the scanned price differs from the shelf price, the product may be given free if it has a value of less than $20 or $20 off when the price is more than $20.

We used to find scan errors every couplenof months but have noticed in the past few years they have been a lot more reliable. I see that Woolworths uses a hand scanner and printer for repricing shelf items/making new shelf labels. I suspect this removes the potential for errors as the store computer system appears to be updated the same time the new shelf pricing label is created.

Maybe someone who works at Woollies can confirm this…I suspect Coles uses similar teechnologies.


That is probably the case, although most reasonable consumers (myself included) would think it is (or should be)

How silly of us; you are correct it is not for us, it is for them.


2016-07-21 article says: The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) requires prices to be clear and correct so that they do not mislead consumers, and to represent the total price of the product or service. It goes on to discuss the Code of Practice for “Computerised Checkout Systems in Supermarkets” that Woolworths is a signatory to (along with ALDI, Coles, and a fourth).
Then there is the enforcement undertaken by the Office of Fair Trading in each state. For example 4 May 2015 Qld OFT article ( ““Most businesses do the right thing and have processes in place to ensure the price at the checkout matches the displayed or advertised price … But where businesses are repeatedly getting it wrong, OFT can and will take corrective action.” For example “Coles Mango Hill was recently fined $10,200 for displaying an incorrect price on a line of soft drink for six days.”


I have relied upon Coles’ Promise on Price Scanning (near the bottom of this page) many times, and have reached the point where I keep it open on one of my phone’s browser tabs. I have also encountered problems when scanning something with two overlapping price tags, a while ago. Unfortunately, Coles’ Promise, which presumably is something like what Woolworths use, states that the promise does not cover (among other things):

  • When the wrong PLU (Price Look Up) number is entered.

This is what has happened when you accidentally scan the wrong barcode. It is not considered a ‘scanning error’.

I now scan anything that has been marked down in this manner with fingers covering the ‘old’ barcode.

If I have entered the wrong code, I have asked for it to be corrected - and consider anyone who does otherwise as effectively stealing (like people who eat the grapes as they walk past). If the price at checkout is lower than the price on the shelf, then that is adequately covered by the guarantee on scanning and the lower price stands. (I have several boxes of electric toothbrush brushes, that were crazily priced on the day I decided to by a similarly-discounted electric toothbrush.)

Of course, once Amazon opens its grocery stores world-wide, we will be reliant upon the mighty company to ‘do the right thing’ - and presumably will pay whatever price is displayed as we pick up the product. (I wonder whether they are able to change the displayed price per customer?)


I was told by a store manager this was referencing a checkout operator who manually entered the PLU on a keypad, not by scanning a barcode - but I’d not bet my life on what a store manager told me either, the caveats were written by the legal department :slight_smile:

Same now. What irked me was that in the vast majority of cases, the store puts a diagonal texta over the old barcode, or covers the old barcode with a new label. In this case there were numerous items where neither had occurred, so its either just negligence on their part or a deliberate ploy to gamble on hitting the wrong barcode - I doubt the latter, but it still gives them a chance to sell at the original price. In this case the new label was on the top, the old on the side - being a meat product I didn’t flip it 180 to scan on the horizontal scanner, just 90 to hit the vertical scanner - the horizontal scanner got the original code first. Quite simply, if they are marking a product down, it should not be possible to scan the original barcode and/or automatically be charged the original price - period. I’ve noticed after I counselled them on markdowns they seem to be more diligent :slight_smile:

Even with the texta - the finger trick avoids unhappiness :slight_smile: Maybe I should take my own texta?


I have never had a problem with Coles refunding the purchase price of any item which scanned incorrectly, including markdowns, or was higher than the shelf price, even when the shelf price was for an expired special.

I have regularly seen the markdown items scan at full price as the staff have failed to cover the original barcode.

I then simply proceed to the service desk and get the item for free.

Why worry about trying to cover the old barcode when you can get a 100% discount instead?


In Queensland (and I suspect that other states would be the same), if one intentionally decides to do this, it could be seen as stealing:

I personally wouldn’t want to be the one to test the law as the cost for defending oneself would far exceed the potential gain at the checkout.


There’s nothing on that web reference relating to here that I could see? Even a QLD web reference :joy:


The third dot point:

swapping, removing or altering price tags to get a lower price for an item

If one intentionally scans the wrong barcode to gain a ‘free’ item (for a lower price), it could be potentially be seen as stealing. If it isn’t stealing, then it would be definitely his:


I mentioned ensuring the original barcode (that wasn’t covered or rendered inoperative by store employees, as it clearly should be) was not scanned or ‘scannable’ giving preference to (for the avoidance of doubt) a mark-down barcode label placed on the item by store employees. This is clearly not fraudulent nor ‘stealing’ - a completely different thing to anything referenced on the web site quoted. The only time I mentioned getting an item for free is when the original price scanned in error - I simply got a markdown on it - a point we agree to differ on.


Perhaps the best way to manage bar code price scan errrors is to not use self serve and keep a few more Aussies in a job?

And you can keep an eye on the scanned prices as it goes thru.

I find the self check outs too cramped for a big shop, the shelves to low
And after you fill one bag the only place to put it is on the floor. May be if I took two trolleys in to the area?

And it always takes three times as long plus the two times items go wrong and you need the staff to fix. Perhaps it is all a cunning plan to have us shop from home on the internet.


I always place the bags back in the trolley as soon as there is room - being woolies is so close (everything here is either 5 minutes away or 18 hours drive) and being I’m from the lower echelon of planners I tend to sporadically shop, forget what list I had, and do it at times when they have no checkouts open … or maybe 1 checkout with 8 people waiting. I’d much rather use a staffed checkout for anything more than a basket of items, and even then … but often they are not open.

You are right - scanning errors are so much easier to manage at staffed checkouts and anecdotally the staff seem to be quite aware of markdowns labels.

Coles seem to have something in-between they call (from memory, I’ve never used them) “assisted checkouts” - not as cramped.


Yes, if it was the store employee who inadvertently scanned the wrong barcode, then it wouldn’t be fraud/stealing…unless one tampered with the barcode to cause the wrong scanning.

Likewise, if one intentionally scanned the wrong barcode in an attempt to profit from the misadventured scan, then this would be a different matter.


Which barcode to you think was scanned?

I can see the mark-down label is crumpled, clearly not a good label fitment, and not good placement either - but to my eyesight without my specs and without this magnification it wasn’t apparent.

Maybe the Woolies staffer was as blind as me :wink:

Still, I got a bargain and the pressure cooker is saying hello to the emerging chicken stock that my throat is telling me I might need if the vit-c doesn’t kill the bug :slight_smile:


For amusement value largely, but still illustrates an issue …

It’s Daily Juice - a fairly expensive extract or the orange coloured round things, but tasty none the less. I won’t typically buy it, but …

When it contains BACON, how could I resist?

I paid the higher price that was over the original barcode, but still on special - didn’t even notice the bacon/egg label - checked later and they were all like that.

I do wonder whether this is just the result of untrained staff, or a deliberate ploy. I’ll run with untrained staff for the moment, but seriously, its surely not that hard to get it right …

OJ was delicious by the way - couldn’t taste bacon or egg though … :rofl::rofl::rofl:


I assume that you had the purchase price refunded at the service counter?

Nothing like a free chook to help you feel better.


I was hoping that bulk bacon and egg orange juice might do it also !!! if it had anchovies and garlic it would be the ‘perfect storm’ !!!