Best Buy, Toys 'R' Us: Wal-Mart ads deceptive

  • Article by: RENEE DUDLEY , Bloomberg News
  • Updated: January 4, 2013 - 8:52 PM

Complaints allege Wal-Mart misled shoppers on pricing.

NEW YORK - Best Buy Co. Inc. and Toys 'R' Us Inc. have filed complaints in several states alleging that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. deceived consumers in price-comparison advertisements.

The ads aired from late November to mid-December, according to Toys 'R' Us. Sales in November and December account for 20 to 40 percent of U.S. retailers' annual revenue, according to the National Retail Federation, a trade group.

Best Buy lost "tens of thousands of dollars" because of the ads, according to spokeswoman Amy von Walter, who said in an e-mail that the Richfield-based company has complained to attorneys general in Florida, Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey.

Toys 'R' Us has provided multiple state attorneys general with evidence of what it called "deceptive advertising practices that mislead consumers regarding specific product pricing comparisons," said Kathleen Waugh, vice president of corporate communications for Toys 'R' Us. The complaints were earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, followed "all local, state and federal rules and regulations," Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo said in a statement. "We know competitors don't like it when we tell customers to compare prices and see for themselves but we think consumers deserve every chance to find value."

He pointed to a statement posted on the Federal Trade Commission's website: "Comparative advertising, when truthful and non-deceptive, is a source of important information to consumers and assists them in making rational purchase decisions." Restivo said the ads "are supported by a rigorous internal process to help ensure accuracy, which includes legal review and oversight as well as documentation supporting our statements about quantities and pricing."

Waugh, the Toys 'R' Us spokeswoman, said that Wal-Mart misled customers about pricing on several toys including the Fisher-Price Servin' Surprises Kitchen and Table Set, which was advertised for $39.97. Third-party shoppers found the sets were being sold for as much twice that price, according to Toys 'R' Us. Wal-Mart said the in-store and advertised price for the set was correct at $39.97.

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