Over the last year, I’ve written a few articles dedicated solely to educating people about their rights under Mexico’s Consumer Protection Law (Ley de Protección al Consumidor). The goal of those articles was to help our readers avoid being overcharged or scammed by unscrupulous businesses while visiting Mexico.
The government agency tasked with investigating and enforcing the provisions of the Consumer Protection Law is the Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor, more commonly known as Profeco. They have the authority to fine, suspend or even close down a business for violations of the Consumer Protection Law.
Articles 7 and 7bis of the Consumer Protection Law require that businesses honor exhibited prices. The intent of that law is to protect consumers from deceptive and misleading advertising.
Unfortunately for many businesses, this law also applies to situations where a store employee makes an error on a sign. In such cases, Profeco will force the business to honor the price — no matter how ridiculously low it might be.
Commas and Decimal Points
Many of these ridiculously low prices are the result of an employee mistakenly putting a decimal point in the price where a comma should be.
That’s how a couple in Juarez, Mexico was able to buy a stove valued at $14,999 pesos ($833 USD) for only $14.999 pesos ($0.83 USD). Although the store refused to honor the price, the couple filed a complaint with Profeco and the store was later forced to sell the stove for less than $1 USD.
The same thing happened at a Coppel store located in Altamira, Mexico when an employee wrote $15.000 pesos on a 50″ television instead of $15,000 pesos. Profeco stepped in once again and the happy consumer left the store paying less than $1 USD for their new flat screen.
I think it’s important to mention that many Spanish-speaking countries actually write prices with a decimal point instead of a comma. However, Mexico is not one of them.
I guess that’s something to keep in mind if you’re a store manager in Mexico and you ask your new employee from Argentina to make your signs.
The law applies to the prices advertised on web sites as well.
Last year, Dell mistakenly advertised Alienware laptops on their web site for only $679 pesos ($37.72 USD). The computers are valued at over $40,000 pesos ($2,222 USD) and hundreds of people placed orders before the price was corrected.
Dell later made an agreement with Profeco to honor the price; however, they limited it to one computer per customer.
Although I wholeheartedly support enforcing consumer rights laws, there are times when I think that people take it way too far.
A recent example comes to us from Altamira, Mexico where an employee of an Arteli store placed this sign next to the Axe deodorants:
The sign says: All the Axe deodorants 96 or 112 gm $39.90 pesos.
Obviously, the sign refers to all of the different scents of Axe deodorants but one young lady took it literally and attempted to purchase all of them for that price.
When the store refused to honor the price, she turned to Profeco and they forced the store to honor the advertised price. She left the store with 235 cans of deodorant valued at almost $9,300 pesos ($513 USD).
Before you cheer for the savvy shopper who beat the system, listen to this — according to news reports, the employee responsible for the sign is being required to pay for their mistake through payroll deductions.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Although I’m considered to be very thrifty by many of my friends, I just can’t see myself taking advantage of a store owner who made an error in punctuation or syntax. For me, integrity is not a matter of whether or not I can do something; rather, whether or not I should.