Putting Government On A Short Leash

Cilmi looks to rein in government over-reach

Legislator Tom Cilmi (R – East Islip) announced he has filed legislation to exempt paint and hardware stores from the County’s decades old item pricing laws. The bill would also strip the Commissioner of the County’s Consumer Affairs Department of the broad authority to unilaterally expand the scope of the law.

As a means of consumer protection, the original item pricing law, passed in the ‘80s, required grocery stores to individually price certain “stock keeping items” such as canned vegetables, cereal and cleaning products. Due to the practical difficulties and the costs associated with constantly changing prices, supermarkets negotiated with the County to create a waiver, allowing retailers to opt out of the requirement by providing consumers with scanners to check item pricing. Retailers must also agree to not charge customers more than an advertised price and to refund customers when an overcharge occurs. The catch is that in order to secure the waiver, retailers must pay a hefty fee dependent upon square footage which ranges from $500 to $15,000 annually.

This year the County is going after more than just supermarkets. Consumer Affairs inspectors have notified True Value Hardware, Costello’s Ace Hardware, Zephora, Petland Discounts, Dollar Tree and a number of similar retailers that they are covered by the law and therefore must either individually price items in their stores or pony up the waiver fee……a price which is ultimately paid by consumers.

“This is government sanctioned extortion, plain and simple,” said Cilmi, “and the result is fewer jobs and higher prices for consumers. Retailers are already required by New York State law to comply with price accuracy standards.”