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5 Steps to Cash in on the Scanning Code of Practice

5 Steps to Cash in on the Scanning Code of Practice

A long time ago, long before the invention of Google, there were actual price tags on items. Customers could easily make sure they were charged the correct prices. But when retailers moved towards scanning UPCs, consumers had to trust that shelf prices would scan correctly.

The Competition Bureau, a federal agency, developed The Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code, formerly known as the Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP). Retailers can voluntarily participate in this program to assure consumers they strive for accurate pricing. And if an item scans incorrectly, you may receive free products by understanding The Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code.

And therein lies the problem. While many consumers know that a code exists, they don’t know how it works. The resulting confusion leads to conversations like the ones referred to in this fascinating Reddit thread. In this article, I’ll clarify the confusion by letting you know exactly how The Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code works and when and how to use it to your advantage.

What Is the Scanner Price Accuracy Code?

The basic premise of the scanning code of practice goes something like this: If the scanned price of an item containing a barcode is higher than the price on the shelf, the customer will receive the item for free, up to $10. If the item is more than $10, the customer will receive $10 off the item’s price.

This applies only to the first item on the shelf. In other words, if you were purchasing three of the same item, only the first one is free. You would pay the correct price for the other two items. This scanner policy only applies if there is no price tag located on the item.

If there was a price tag on the item and the scanner picked up a different price from the barcode, the lower price would apply.

Are All In-Store Items Included In the Program?

For an item to be included in the scanning code of practice, it must have a Universal Product Code (UPC), bar code, or Price Lookup (PLU) code. Some products do not qualify under the code, such as prescription drugs or behind-the-counter cosmetics. If you live in a province with its own scanner price regulations to protect consumers, the scanning code of practice does not apply.

Why Does The Scanner Price Accuracy Code Exist?

According to the Retail Council of Canada, the scanner code of practice serves three different purposes. It demonstrates the retailer’s commitment to accuracy with scanner pricing; it gives retailers a clear framework for dealing with scanner price accuracy issues; it provides the industry with a way to resolve scanner price accuracy cases that arise.

Do All Retailers In Canada Have to Comply with the Scanner Price Accuracy Code?

While the list of Canadian retailers following the scanner price accuracy code is a lengthy one, it is a voluntary program, and no one forces them to comply. Below is a list of all participating retailers in alphabetical order. As you can see, there are several well-known Canadian retailers on the list, including Walmart Canada, Canadian Tire, Best Buy, and Shoppers Drug Mart. The list also includes more than 1300 Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers independent locations.

List of Participating Retailers

  • Best Buy
  • Bulkley Valley Wholesale
  • Canadian Tire
  • Co-op Atlantic
  • Costco Wholesale Canada
  • Federated Co-operatives Limited
  • Giant Tiger Stores
  • The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company of Canada Limited
  • The Groupe Jean Coutu (NB and ON only)
  • The Harry Watson Group
  • The Home Depot Canada
  • Home Hardware (2 Ontario stores)
  • Lawton Drug Stores
  • Loblaw Companies Limited
  • London Drugs
  • Longos Brothers Fruit Markets
  • Lovell Drugs
  • Metro Inc.
  • Overwaitea Foods
  • Pharmasave (BC stores)
  • PriceSmart Foods
  • Rona
  • Safeway
  • Save-On-Foods
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Sobeys
  • The North West Company
  • Thrifty Foods
  • Toys”R”Us
  • Urban Fare
  • Walmart Canada

5 Steps to Cash in on the Scanning Code of Practice

Now that you understand how the scanning code of practice works, here are five steps you should follow when shopping to benefit from the code should a pricing error occur.

1. Slow Down

As you place items into your grocery cart, slow down long enough to check shelf tag prices (use a notebook if needed). You may not be used to watching product prices regularly, but it is an essential money-saving habit and might pay off at the checkout.

2. Pay Attention at the Checkout

To take advantage of SCOP, you must observe as the cashier is scanning your items. If a product does not ring in at the shelf price, it’s time to alert the cashier.

3. Ask Cashier to Honour the Scanning Code of Practice

Notify the cashier that a price rang up incorrectly. They should verify this by paging someone to check the shelf price. Once a salesperson confirms the price scanned incorrectly, the cashier should ring the item in as free (or $10 off if the item is more than $10).

Remember, this also applies to multiple items as long as they have different UPCs. For example, these four different scents of shampoos would be free if the store scanned them incorrectly, but you could not get two identical ones free.

Retailers should train cashiers about implementing the policy but never assume. They may be new in their role and not yet familiar. If they don’t do this voluntarily, politely let them know that you believe that you should be receiving the item for free.

4. Speak to Customer Service

Customer service representatives or a manager on duty will know how to adjust your bill to reflect the Scanning Code of Practice. They would refund you the difference if the cashier did not do this properly.

5. Make a Phone Call

If you are not satisfied after speaking to Customer Service, you may register a complaint by calling the Scanner Price Accuracy Committee at 1-866-499-4599. I have not personally heard of a situation where Customer Service didn’t handle the matter internally, but it is good to know if you aren’t satisfied.

What Are the Retailer’s Responsibilities to the Code?

The Scanning Code of Practice may be voluntary, but once members sign up, they have a clearly defined set of responsibilities they must follow. I’ve listed them below, in point form:

  • All retailers must apply the code to align with the philosophy and intent of the code.
  • Retailers will establish their policies to ensure correct prices are in the scanner and there is a high level of accuracy.
  • Retailers must display the appropriate signage at specific locations in their stores.
  • Retailers will train staff accordingly.
  • Retailers must retain copies of the latest store ads for customer reference, i.e., flyers, etc.

Final Thoughts on the Scanning Code of Practice

Here at MapleMoney, we write a lot about websites and apps that pay you cash rewards when you shop. Think Rakuten, Swagbucks, Drop, Paymi, and more. But by utilizing the Scanning Code of Practice when you shop, you can get items for free. You don’t even need an app. All you have to do is know the rules and pay close attention when making purchases at your favourite stores (assuming they’re on the list).

By the way, don’t feel bad about asking the cashier to receive your free products – the store also benefits by keeping their shelf prices current, so it’s a win-win.


  1. melissa

    Baking dishes, with mixing bowls. They were marked down to 10.00 each of the sets. I was going to buy one of each, one with 3 small glass pie plates, and mixing bowls, and the other had loaf pans. Usually were 40 plus dollars, SCOP I got both sets for free.

  2. Karen G

    Great score Melissa. Free is fun!

  3. Tonya

    How do you know which stores participate in this voluntary program?

  4. Karen G

    Good question Tonya. Most of the stores I shop at do participate in SCOP. Check out this link for a list and be sure to ask the cashier if you see an error in the scanned price.

  5. SueSueper

    Ah, learnt something new from this article. Thanks so much.

    I got two deodorants different scents, therefore different UPCs. They scanned incorrectly. I only claimed one as free. Will certainly be using that tip in the future.


  6. Lori

    If a store participates, there will be signage at each cash register and usually on the door coming in. Look for a sticker around the interac machine or cash register. I got a nearly $20 bag of dog food for $.99, because it was supposed to be $10.99 on sale.

  7. Karen G

    Sue: So glad you learned something new. And your example reminds us that we need to know policies as consumers, as most stores won’t volunteer the deals at the time.

    Lori: Thanks for the reminder about the signs. I’m convinced free food always tastes better – wonder if your dog agreed 🙂

  8. Barbara Miller

    Cassie, thank you for this information. I am a US resident and I will now be in search of a similar policy in the US. With your permission, I linked to this article in my blog. I have been following you for sometime and hope that my readers will click over to read more of your great posts. Thanks again for the info.

  9. Karen Gauvreau

    Brenda – It is true that some stores are notorious for not checking prices. Best place to cash in on SCOP!

  10. Theresa Mifflin

    Both times at Canadian Tire I have been able to get free product. First was a checked plastic tablecloth for camping. Was 15$, and the second trip I did was a pair of water shoes for my daughter. And they were 10$
    Both items I ended up getting for free.

  11. Judith

    This works in Canada? I can remember several times when I’ve noticed the prices wrong at checkout… What do I say? “That price is incorrect, I should get that for free now”?

    • RICK

      This works all the time for me… and yes… in Canada… just keep an eye on the prices… and when something comes up wrong… just say “uhhh… scanning code of practice?”

      sometimes you have to go with your receipt to customer service because the cashier isnt aware or doesnt have the authority to reverse the transaction.

  12. Shirley

    I’ve shopped at Home Depot quite a bit the last few years doing a basement Reno. I’ve found them very good. Sometimes I’ve noticed the difference at the till and sometimes once I’ve gotten home. I’ve never had any issues with adjustments.

  13. Shirley

    Does anyone have any experience with incorrect prices because of how the cashier scans vs the shelf price information not matching what is in their computer? Scenario is you buy a bunch of items, same thing but different flavours. 5 different UPC’s.
    The cashier picked one, which happened to be the 1/7 that was not on sale, and swiped it 7 times. It ran up at the correct price but the other items were never scanned. At a minimum, I overpaid ~0.50 per package and the companies inventory is wrong. Is that scenario covered?

  14. Hank wang

    Canada, Canadian Tire, Best Buy, and Shoppers Drug Mart

  15. Diana

    Good article. Useful info but you may want to update the acronym used many times within the article. With the name change to the Code, it is now SPAC, rather than SCOP. May avoid confusion for shoppers new to this.

  16. Bringer of death, destroyer of parasites.

    Its not a win win. Its incredibly stupid. And people who shop this way are parasites.

  17. Tara M

    Hello, I work retail in a grocery store that follows this policy and i hope i can clear up a few things for anyone curious. I can’t say what store but i am a manager there and here are the steps we follow.

    1) if it is a cashier error we are not required to give the item for free, example the cashier types the code for watermelon (4032) instead of grapes (4023). This is called a “human error” and due to it being a different PLU we simply fix the mistake, apologise and give the adjusted price.

    2) for an above example if a cashier scan 1 correct item out of 7 and the other six scan wrong we give a refund for the 6 items bought, once prices are confirmed wrong for those 6 items we do honour the SCOP and have a talk with that cashier. Not only does them scanning a single code cheat customers it also ruins our inventory count so its a big no no all around.

    3) for SCOP to apply there must be a label or sign present with that specific UPC and the item must be stacked there in such a manner that an employee was responsible. Example; a single bag of rice for 12.99 is thrown ontop of a display for another brand of rice marked 10.99, this is a different UPC and is another part of human error, this being customers placing items in the wrong spot as they shop. Another example is if a product is on the shelf, fully stacked with no label. If this occurs typically the scanning price is what we determine is the regular price, the only exception being if a similar product is near by but is a different variation, then we give the product for that price but not free as the UPC does not match and as such the sale may only apply to selected varieties.

    Sorry for the long post hope this clears things up for everyone!

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