Agency tests helped consumers avoid $14 million in costs last year

By Colin A. Young, State House News Service

The agency that calls itself "the best-kept secret in state government" saved consumers and merchants $14 million last year by enforcing accuracy requirements for weighing and measuring devices.

Massachusetts consumers avoided spending $8.7 million and businesses saved $5.3 million last year thanks to the more than 20,000 inspections and more than 13,000 tests of scales, gas pumps, and barcode scanners, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation's Division of Standards said in its annual report.

"Every day, state and local weights and measures officials ensure that – in every city and town in the Commonwealth – the devices that weigh our food products, measure our fuel, and scan our purchases are properly calibrated, ensuring accuracy in these transactions," the division said in the report. "As a result, consumers are assured of receiving full value in their purchases."

 In 2016, the division issued 13,753 licenses that generated $2.14 million in license fees, tested and certified 13,863 commercial weighing and measuring devices in 106 towns, conducted more than 20,000 inspections, performed 778 inspections related to item pricing resulting in $68,480 in penalties for pricing violations, and issued 65 civil citations for various violations amounting to $21,848 in penalties.

Among the devices tested were propane meters, vehicle tank meters used in the sale of liquid fuels, milk tanks, coin-operated amusement devices, can/bottle return machines, price scanning systems, and law enforcement axle load scales.

The division last year placed special emphasis, officials said, on checking gas station pumps for illegal credit card skimmers, clandestine devices that steal credit card information during a routine transaction. The division said it found "several of these illegal devices" and notified local police.