Walmart Facing Class-Action Lawsuit Over Price Discrepancies

The new suit against the big-box retailer could put some money back in your pocket.

Walmart store sign and entrance
Updated July 18, 2024
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Big-box retailer Walmart is facing a hefty lawsuit — and if you’re a regular Walmart shopper, it may get you some money back.

The company is being sued over claims that it often charges higher prices at the register than those posted on store shelves, a discrepancy that allegedly cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars annually. 

Now, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has ruled that the case can proceed as a class action, citing potential violations of consumer protection laws across several states.

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The lawsuit's claims

The Toidi/Adobe walmart plus sign inside walmart

Shoppers claim that Walmart uses a "bait-and-switch" tactic by displaying lower prices on shelves than what is charged at the register. This practice is claimed to violate multiple states' consumer protection laws and has led to significant financial losses for shoppers.

The court's ruling

jetcityimage/Adobe walmart trolley inside store

The Chicago appeals court has now reversed a lower court's dismissal, allowing the suit to proceed. The court found it reasonable for consumers to expect the prices displayed on shelves to match those charged at checkout. Meanwhile, Walmart’s defense was that giving customers receipts negated the unfairness of inaccurate shelf prices.

Documented discrepancies

ColleenMichaels/Adobe checkout counters inside Walmart

Lawyers representing Walmart shoppers have discovered price discrepancies in several states, including Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey. In one New Jersey Walmart, Crisco Pure Canola Oil was purchased for $3.64 versus a $3.12 shelf price and Hershey's Chocolate Syrup for $2.48 versus a $2.33 shelf price. 

The case argues that these minor discrepancies accumulate, leading to substantial consumer costs.

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Challenges at check-out

Courtesy of FinanceBuzz Walmart-Quaker instant oatmeal individual cups

Circuit Judge David Hamilton noted that consumers cannot be expected to meticulously track shelf prices while shopping. 

Distractions such as managing children or handling purchases at checkout make it unreasonable to expect consumers to notice every discrepancy. Hamilton emphasized that forcing consumers to record or memorize shelf prices is impractical.

Bottom line

jovannig/Adobe low prices at Walmart shop

These alleged pricing discrepancies at Walmart could cost consumers hundreds of millions annually, and the appeals court found that the retailer's practice might violate consumer protection laws. 

Now, documented discrepancies across multiple states highlight the potential widespread impact on shoppers, and past and present Walmart shoppers could be compensated if the plaintiffs win the suit. 

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Author Details

Laura Ratliff

Laura Ratliff is a writer and editor based in New York. Her writing expertise spans numerous topics, including insurance, travel, food and drink, and reported pieces covering political and human rights issues. She has previously worked at Architectural Digest, Bloomberg News, and Condé Nast Traveler.