Countdown criticized over checkout scales, Trading Standards launches investigation

Trading Standards will conduct an assessment to make sure Countdown Browns Bay is compliant with legislation.


Trading Standards will conduct an assessment to make sure Countdown Browns Bay is compliant with legislation.

Supermarket Countdown has been caught using checkouts with scales that give the wrong weight.

An Auckland shopper said she had repeatedly seen the scales at Countdown stores displaying a weight with nothing on them.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said she first came across the issue at Countdown Browns Bay on March 30 last year, where an empty checkout scale displayed 105 grams.

She came across the same issue at a staffed checkout at Countdown Ponsonby on May 8, where the empty scales displayed 145 grams. And on two other occasions at Countdown Browns Bay in the following months.

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She was refunded the difference of $10 when she first raised the issue, and had since been in contact with the store manager over her concerns that it was overcharging consumers.

However, 10 months on and despite correspondence with Countdown and store managers, nothing had been done to fix the scale, she said.

“Statistically speaking, I am just a single person going to a single store, and I encountered this issue three times in Browns Bay and once in Ponsonby, because I just happened to look.”

David White

Scan & Go works by allowing a shopper to scan the barcode of items using the Countdown app and pack the goods into a shopping bag as they go. Shoppers pass through a dedicated unmanned checkout, prompting an electronic payment to be made.

She said she wanted other shoppers to be aware and check the scales’ display before using them.

“I shop at Countdown Browns Bay often and every time after March I would go past that counter to see if there was extra weight. Sometimes it didn’t.

“When we spoke about it [the staff] kind of leaned on it and then got off, and it zeroed out. It was very temperamental, which is still not acceptable.”

The woman said Countdown checked with the head office and was told there was nothing that they could do, and they would need to replace the whole unit, which they did not intend to do.

A Countdown spokesperson said the service agent responsible for the scales was made aware of the issue in August. The checkout was checked and the problem resolved.

“Since then, our team has been closely monitoring this particular checkout and double-checking that the scale is properly tared before use. We have now been in touch with the customer to apologize and let them know the actions we have taken to resolve this issue.”

The spokesperson was not aware of any issue with a checkout at its Ponsonby store and staff had checked and confirmed it was operating correctly.

All stores ran weekly checks to ensure scales at all checkouts were functioning correctly, she said.

Countdown says it performs weekly checks on its checkout scales to make sure they are working as they should.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

Countdown says it performs weekly checks on its checkout scales to make sure they are working as they should.

“We also have all of our scales certified on an annual basis by an independent service provider.

“Our absolute priority is making sure that pricing in our stores is clear, accurate and unambiguous, and that includes ensuring that our scales are working exactly as they should.”

The Commerce Commission said it had received one complaint about the issue in August, but decided not to investigate.

A Trading Standards spokesperson said the department had been notified and would “carry out an assessment to check” that Countdown Browns Bay was compliant with the Weights and Measures Act and Regulations.

It could not share any details as it said it was an ongoing investigation.

The weighing or measuring of goods before or at the time of sale must be done in the presence of the buyer, and using a weighing or measuring instrument that is situated where the buyer can easily see that instrument, any necessary weights or measures, and the recorded or indicated weight or measurement of the goods.

Stephen O’Brien, Trading Standards’ national manager, said it was the responsibility of the retailer to make sure that goods contain the correct net quantity and are weighed or measured using a suitable, accurate and trade-approved instrument.

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