New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has wrested an agreement from several major retailers to bring unit pricing information to online supermarkets and drugstores nationwide.
Within nine months, unit pricing will be available on the websites and mobile apps of Walmart, Costco, Walgreens, FreshDirect, CVS and Drugstore.com. Amazon refused to participate.
Although Amazon displays unit pricing on some of its pages, it does not provide the information uniformly across its platforms. Furthermore, its subsidiaries do not currently display unit pricing.
Unfortunately for consumers, Amazon refused to agree to provide the information. The company claims it will extend unit pricing to its subsidiary Quidsi, which operates online stores like Soap.com, but refused to commit to that in a written agreement.
It also would not agree to extend unit pricing to pages where that information is absent, nor would it commit to continue providing unit pricing information to consumers in the future, Schneiderman's office said.
“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,” said Schneiderman. “Making New York more affordable for the middle class includes empowering consumers to spend their money wisely. I commend these retailers for recognizing the need for transparency and promoting openness online."
Unit pricing benefits consumers by allowing them to quickly compare prices of different items regardless of quantity, manufacturer, packaging size or discounts. For example, a single product category, such as breakfast cereal, can feature a wide array of sizes and packaging combinations from a variety of competing brands.
The unit price combines those factors and gives the price per ounce, generally displayed next to the retail price, allowing consumers to make better and faster choices.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have some type of unit pricing requirement. New York law requires that large retail stores clearly display the price per unit of measurement for most types of food, cleaning and paper products, toiletries, pet food and over-the-counter medications.
Prior to this initiative, unit pricing information online was rare. Among large retailers, full availability of unit pricing was limited to online grocer Peapod.