Imagine seeing a Black Friday national ad for a big screen TV at a super low price. Yet when you drive to your nearest Walmart store, you see the same TV selling for significantly more. Under the state’s Unfair Sales Act, Oklahoma residents have endured higher prices for goods during past Black Friday sales. Starting this year however, Oklahoma shoppers will be allowed to purchase merchandised goods at the same lower prices as other states during Black Friday 2013.
What is the Unfair Sales Act?
Before 1949, local grocers were having a hard time competing with larger stores in an ongoing pricing war, as products such as bread were sold by larger retailers below cost during this period. This forced many of the smaller establishments to go out of business. In 1949, the Unfair Sales Act was passed to help smaller businesses compete on fair terms with larger ones. Instead of suffering due to predatory pricing, they could sell their wares at prices similar to those of the larger establishments.
Whenever any retailer in Oklahoma broke the law, they were issued up to a $500 fine and considered guilty of committing a misdemeanor. However, there were a few provisions made for specialized sales. For instance, advertised clearance items, imperfect or damaged goods, liquidation and auction sales were allowed. Other provisions included:
- Perishable merchandise can be sold below cost to ease profit loss
- Charitable items and goods – given to relief agencies – were exempt from the act
- Officers under court law can purchase goods at lower prices
- Goods sold by contract to governmental departments and institutions
- When items were sold as a combination with another product
Oklahoma Bill 550, which went into effect starting November 1, 2013, was passed into law this year permitting retailers to sell general merchandise at any price below cost. The new law even extends to include sales outside of Black Friday. The Bill stipulates that retailers are only allowed to host a sale on a specific product for up to 15 days in a row. Furthermore, retailers can discount a particular item up to 10 times in a given year. Groceries, prescription drugs, gas, lumber and beauty products are exempt from this law.
What happened to make the Bill necessary?
Although the Unfair Sales Act made it possible for Oklahoma businesses to compete fairly in commerce, it wasn’t perfect. When Black Friday began sweeping the nation, the act became a burden to Oklahoma consumers. Businesses large and small were at a competitive disadvantage during Black Friday because neighboring states offered bargains at significantly lower prices.
In turn, Oklahomans were compelled to travel to Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas for Black Friday bargains. This was especially tough for households who didn’t have adequate transportation to make such long trips . In addition, schools, roads and public safety funding suffered from lost tax revenue. Today, Oklahomans can start buying discounted merchandised goods during major sales such as Black Friday and Back-to-School events.
What can Oklahoma shoppers look forward to for Black Friday 2013?
On Black Friday 2013, Oklahomans can shop locally for merchandise at the same price as in other states (with the exception of Wisconsin), eliminating the need to drive long distances to take advantage of Black Friday savings. Plus, it provides an opportunity for families to stretch their holiday shopping budget further. To put things in perspective, here are a few examples of Wal-Mart sales items during the 2012 Black Friday sale:
- A 60” Vizio Smart LED TV sold for $688 in neighboring states while the same TV sold for $976 in Oklahoma
- An HP Laptop with a 15.6 screen was offered for $279 in other states while the same laptop sold for $349 in Oklahoma
- An LG Blu-ray player can be purchased at $48 in Oklahoma while other states advertised it for $38
- A 40” Emerson LCD HDTV was advertised at $198 in other states, yet all Walmarts in Oklahoma advertised it for $362
What can Oklahoma businesses look forward to for Black Friday 2013?
Even though the Act had been around for over 70 years, many business owners never knew about it. Some even unknowingly broke the law by offering discounts below cost during holiday seasons. However, the new law will allow retailers to decide the pricing of sale items on their own terms and without the threat of restrictions or penalties. Storeowners can reap the benefits of having more customers shop in their establishments and buying more items. In addition, the new law can help boost sales tax for their communities to improve local public schools and repair public roads. Ultimately, this law will be a much-appreciated holiday gift to Oklahoma consumers.