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Barcode Scan Price Errors


Luckily you noticed. I agree that many people wouldn’t.

Perhaps the checkout person just made a honest mistake? Maybe they were rushing? Whatever the case, you were charged the wrong price.

No doubt that a lot of people try to rort the system, but that is no excuse. The supervisor should have treated you with due respect and courtesy.

The response to incorrect charging appears to be very varied as you will see in the comments above.

It comes down to the training the staff received, and I would assume the management of that store.

It might be appropriate to talk to the store manager and politely advise them of what happened. Hopefully, this won’t occur to you again, but if this sort of response to overcharging re-occurs at that store, let Woolworths head office know.


If the tomatoes were in a package of some kind with a bar code, the policy Woolies and Coles (et al) have is that you get the first item for free (package) and subsequent items at the cheaper/advertised price. If there is no bar code (PLU) then you just get refunded the difference (there are other limitations, not tobacco, not alcohol, 50$ item limit, etc) - so in this case I believe Woolies went beyond what is required but the code of conduct.

My understanding is the code of conduct exists to allay fears and try and instil trust that the supermarket will charge what the shelf said back when they transitions from price tags on each item - because people ‘don’t trust computers’ … While I think it’s a good thing and should include operator error, I’m surprised it’s still in effect …


I hope Choice is not ignoring emails or deleting them? Consumers hate it when businesses do this.

I have to say Choice has not always responded to my emails either.


Hi @Joe1,

Apologies if we’ve ever ignored an email from you, we do our best to respond to all the direct enquiries we receive. If you ever have a need in the future, this forum is a great way to get into contact with a variety of people from CHOICE, or send me a direct message and I’ll be happy to help out.


Well I just had an argument with the manager at Woothworths Manjimup about the Scanning Code of Practice. The product scanned at $6.30. I noticed it as said no it is $4.50 as marked on the product on a markdown sticker. This sticker was put on top of another sticker with the barcode showing and it seems that the barcode underneath was scanning. The checkout operator just corrected the price. I said, no I am entitled to it for free. She called her supervisor who told me it didn’t apply in this circumstance because all she had to do was put her finger over the wrong barcode to scan it properly!

I said that isn’t relevant. It scanned higher than marked, if I hadn’t noticed it I would have been overcharged. I am entitled to the product free. No she says. Get the manager I say.

10 minutes later the manager comes down and tells me that the Scanning Code of Practice only applies if a product is put in the wrong place on the shelf and it scans at a different priced. I tried to reason with him and tell him that it does in fact apply to when any product scans at a higher price than marked on the shelf or ticketed. He said “I don’t have time for this, she is wrong but give it to her for free”. I pressed the point and asked him to show me the Scanning Code of Conduct. He couldn’t. I said he should go and look it up because he is incorrect and he just went off.

So the staff are none the wiser, believing I am yet another one of those unreasonable customers. The manager doesn’t even know the Scanning Code of Practice himself and how many others are being ripped off because they won’t press their consumer rights?!


Nice work standing your ground @tracy.leigh, it’s a shame that Woolworths wouldn’t offer better customer care in situations like this one.

It also appears the Scanning Code of Practice is no longer available online and the reference is removed from the Woolworths website.


I thought Woolworths is the only supermarket that is currently a signatory to the code, while Coles and Aldi do have its own version that is voluntary.

Nice to make a bit of noise to let the public know about the Scanning code practice .


Curious, that. I did notice an addendum for mobile service and phones. Maybe the complaint by @Wend a while back caused them to take more notice?


The scanning code of practice which Woolworths is a signatory can be found here.

The code states: “A scanning error does not include operator errors. An operator error occurs when an operator keys in the wrong PLU number or identifies the wrong product. In this circumstance, the consumer is not entitled to redress under clause 4 of the Code.”

While the code does not specifically cover the issue of the wrong barcode being scanned by an operator, the example that you used I suggest would fall into the category of an operator error, where the operator scanned fhe wrong barcode identifying the price of product. It could be seen as the wrong barcode being scanned which would be similar to the wrong PLU being entered.

If the right barcode was scanned by the operator and this price was different to that shown, then it would be a scan error rather than an operator error. This would have been resolved under clause 4 of the code.

In case where the operator scanned the wrong barcode (accidentially covering the wrong one), Woolworths were in their rights not to offer a refund for the whole of the product value. It appears thay they did so to alleviate a potentially heated situation and a gesture of goodwill.


Woolworths is the only main supermarket signatory. IGA is also signed up to this one as well.

It is referenced in the Woolworths help centre if one does a search for the term scan code.

I have included a link in the above post to the code.


Agreed this situation is not explicitly addressed per se, but there is a part of the grocer code addressing reduced price merchandise. Your reference link is from IGA Tasmania’s site and my understanding is all the codes are similar. With that as my assumption, check 5.1 and 5.4 re the experience at Woolies.

As I read it they should have had a copy of the code to discuss with their customer, and they should have applied the mark-down price label so the scanner would not have picked up the full price barcode.


Yes, ensuring any underlying labels were fully covered would have solved the problem.

I have noticed that some products have very large barcodes which extend vertically the length of the packaging…making it near impossible for a small marked down sticker to cover the whole of the original barcode. Maybe this is done to make scanjing easier,and quicker for the operator.

I have also noticed from our own nearest Woolworths that often they stick two or more markdown stickers on the packaging, Usually the closer to the best before/use by date the higher the marked discount. Here is one such example:

I haven’t checked our local Woolworths for a few months…I read the signage if I have to sit on the provided bench waiting for my hetter half to continue through the checkout …but when I last looked there was a small sign indicating the scanning price policy. I also recall reading their raincheck policy at the same time which I thought was reasonable.

The linked code version is on the IGA Tassie website as it was the first version I found. It is the one produced by the MGA…and the version applied nationally to those which are signatoriea.


As @RayM has already stated, Coles provides for an item that scans for a higher price than is stated on the shelf to be free. I have found this incredibly useful in recent months, as the local Coles cannot seem to align its vanilla ice cream price between shelf and checkout. Free ice cream! (I have suggested that they fix the issue, but as they have so far failed to do so I continue to take advantage of it.)


With Woolworths, I just got a message and they said “Our scanning policy states that if an item scans higher than a shelf price, you’re entitled to get that item free of charge. Just to let you know, the code does not cover – liquor and tobacco products” and stated that the info is not on their web site no more.


I had one similar - a pack of snags, the markdown label on the top and original barcode on the side - I tried to scan the markdown barcode on the vertical reader but the horizontal reader got the barcode on the side first - not surprising as the markdown barcodes are often hard to scan. Staff member denied it was an issue and marked it down - I said it should be free - staff member said I had scanned the wrong barcode! I challenged it and the supervisor stood by the staff member - he just looked at me blankly when I mentioned to code of practice, something they do well …

I didn’t do it this time, but a couple of times previously when they’ve joined the blank look brigade I’ve asked them to credit the item and told them I’m not buying it.

You’d think training these people would be fairly straight forward - but I can still remember trying to tell them at the service counter that they had a scanning code of practice, and they couldn’t find it. Blank looks again.


It would have only been free if the marked down label barcode scanned a different price to that shown on the markdown sticker.

It is important to note that both the MGA (Woolworths and IGA) and Coles code, the price discrepancy has to be in relation to the shown self price. I would suspect that with a marked down price, this would be the marked down price on the marked down label using the marked down barcode. If there was a difference, which would be impossible as the marked down price and barcode shown on tye one label would be unique to that printed label.

I suspect that they didn’t fall for this one as any unscrupulous customer at a self serve checkout could intentionally scan the original barcode of a marked down item with corresponding label claiming it scanned incorrectly, thus getting the product free. It would he easy way to get a lot of shopping for free while such a loophole existed, if in fact it did (which it doesn’t).


One side of this thread hangs their view on “customer’s common sense” and the other on explicit terms and conditions.

Can customers game the system? Yes. Do businesses game the system? Yes. Deuce, and it becomes a case by case game.

The intent of the code is to assure customers that ‘the price they see’ is the price that will scan. In this case that did not happen so I conclude from my view it is a fail on Woolies and the product should have been gratis. According to the MGA that was the shop’s error and they should own up to it. My conclusion is based on the intent of the code, and a good manager should accept the intent when dealing one on one, without demeaning or denigrating the customer.

According to the MGA there should have been (and probably was) a copy in the store or posted. Perhaps there was not, or perhaps the manager was not willing to be bothered.

…understand the concept of customer relations at best, especially considering the scanning error was the stores error in how they placed the reduction sticker according to the MGA. Even a very large bar code can be covered by a smaller label/bar code that should inhibit the scanner from successfully reading it.

Counterpoint is that while ‘we’ demand the ‘free’ item when we find an error, everyone does not notice scanning errors, and if we are charged less (eg the wrong code is manually entered for fruit or veg how many notice that, and if ‘we’ do, do ‘we’ always demand to pay the higher price?

An interesting topic and a brief introduction to ‘The Joys of Grocery Retail’.


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 …