PYMNTS MonitorEdge May 2024

Walmart Encountered Mispricing Issue at Self-Checkout in 1,600 Stores

Walmart, self-checkout, retail

Walmart reportedly encountered a pricing issue that affected 1,600 of its stores across the United States in March.

The internal system failure resulted in widespread mispricing, with some items being sold at incorrect lower prices and others at higher prices, Bloomberg reported Wednesday (May 29).

While Walmart has taken steps to address the problem and reimburse affected customers, concerns about consumer protection laws and potential legal and regulatory consequences for the company have arisen, according to the report.

When the incident began on March 19, internal warnings alerted Walmart about pricing discrepancies occurring at self-checkout stands in its stores, the report said. A system failure prevented price data from flowing to the self-checkout stands, leading to widespread mispricing.

While Walmart acknowledged the breakdown and overcharging of customers, specific details such as the number of affected individuals, the total amount overcharged and the duration of the problem were not disclosed, per the report.

Walmart spokesperson Mischa Dunton told Bloomberg that the technical issue was resolved, and more than 80% of customers who were overcharged have been reimbursed.

However, legal experts said that despite the reimbursement efforts, the pricing errors likely violate state and federal consumer protection laws, according to the report.

Christopher Peterson, a law professor at the University of Utah, told Bloomberg that even a small mistake of this magnitude could result in millions of dollars in illegal overcharges.

State and federal authorities will likely consider two factors when deciding whether to take action against Walmart, Bill Kovacic, a professor at George Washington University Law School, told Bloomberg.

Firstly, they will assess whether the company made a complete and good-faith effort to reimburse affected customers and notify them of the issue. Secondly, they will expect Walmart to conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the problem and implement measures to prevent its recurrence, Kovacic said, per the report.

The pricing issue was not the only technological problem Walmart faced in recent months, according to the report. The company experienced cash register and website outages in February, as well as disruptions to photo and vision prescription orders in March.

Walmart described these incidents as “disparate events” and “anomalies,” emphasizing the inherent risks associated with innovation and technology integration, per the report.

It was reported in March that the retailer was scaling back self-checkout, limiting it to subscribers or making decisions about use of the technology on a store-by-store basis.