Oklahoma’s ‘ Unfair Sales Act’ Stopped The Sale Of Some Items Last Week

Monday, November 27th 2006, 10:07 am
By: News On 6

Some Oklahoma customers of Wal-Mart were shocked when the company wouldn't honor a nationally advertised price on a television. It was a Thanksgiving "rollback" price, which turned out to be even below what it cost Wal-Mart and in Oklahoma, which’s against the law.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says it sounded like a great deal, a big screen TV more than $200 off the regular price. And it was a great deal, in 45 other states but not here. Our state's "unfair sales act" stopped Wal-Mart from selling the TV for the price available to most of the rest of the country.

It's a law most often enforced when gas stations sell below cost. Sam's Club lost a lawsuit over selling gasoline below cost in Oklahoma City, after it was sued by competitor.

Now Wal-Mart has angered some customers for sticking by the law. Customers say they saw a TV at an incredible sale price both online and in Wal-Mart national ads before Thanksgiving. But when shoppers went to the store they were told the price didn't apply in Oklahoma.

Shopper Jim Gotham: “we saw an ad Wednesday evening about a 52 inch TV for $479 at Wal-Mart, and their price turned to be $699 so we're hoping Target will give us the $479."

The problem was an Oklahoma law that prohibits any store from selling items below cost. It's designed to protect small stores from corporate giants like Wal-Mart. Besides Oklahoma, there are only four other states that have similar laws that stop retailers from selling items below cost. Five other states have laws that prevent only the below cost sales of cigarettes.

The law didn't prevent Wal-Mart and Sam's from rolling out their $4 dollar generic drug program. Those drugs are so cheap - a high volume pharmacy can sell them at that price and still make a profit.

The markdowns after Thanksgiving brought out customers by the thousands. Some waited for hours to get the deals only available in those first few hours. Even though there were some good deals, in other states the deals might have been even better.

The 52" inch TV at Wal-Mart was the only item we heard about being advertised, but not sold at that price in Oklahoma. There were several reports of people who tried to get the TV, who were turned away.

This law has been around a long time, since 1949, from my research it looks like it's mainly been an issue on groceries and gasoline.