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New York's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, has reached an agreement with six retailers, including FreshDirect, Walmart and Costco, to provide the unit prices of products listed on their websites.
Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia require unit pricing on in-store products. Under the agreement reached by Schneiderman, unit pricing will be available online to the six retailers' customers no matter which state they live in.
"As the Internet becomes the shopping mall of the 21st century, we need to ensure that consumers have the same robust protections online that they do in brick-and-mortar stores," explained Schneiderman. "Making New York more affordable for the middle class includes empowering consumers to spend their money wisely. This agreement, in which government and the private sector worked collaboratively to adapt conventional rules to an evolving marketplace, is a victory for consumers. I commend these retailers for recognizing the need for transparency and promoting openness online."
Identifying itself as "an industry leader," one of the retailers, Long Island City, N.Y.-based e-grocer FreshDirect, declared itself ready "to lead the charge to upgrade information to enhance customer knowledge in the online fresh food sector," in the words of Chief Consumer Officer Jodi Kahn.
"This is a monumental advance for consumers," said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Consumers League. "Providing unit prices helps consumers compare prices between items quickly and easily. Particularly important for consumers on a budget, unit pricing gives them the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions." Greenberg added that she hoped other retailers would follow the lead of the companies that were parties to the agreement.
The other retailers covered by the agreement are CVS, Walgreens and Drugstore.com. Each retailer will implement online unit pricing between the end of this year and March 2015. All six companies have agreed to continue providing unit pricing to consumers in the future, including in any online stores they launch going forward. According to Schneiderman, online powerhouse Amazon declined to sign on to the agreement.
Before Schneiderman's agreement, unit pricing information online was uncommon. Among large retailers, full availability of unit pricing was limited to Skokie, Ill.-based online grocer Peapod, a division of Ahold USA.