– Advertising should be clear as to the final price to the consumer
– Prices in other currencies allowed as long as consumer can pay in colones

The Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio (MEIC) is making a reminder to businesses that consumer prices, be it a service or product must show the “final” or all-inclusive price to the consumer.

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The “total” price must either be included either on the product label, a price tag, sticker, placard, menu or whatever pricing system is used, so as not to confuse the consumer.

Cinthya Zapata, directora de la Unidad de Apoyo al Consumidor, del Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio (Consumer Support Unit, Ministry of Economy, Industry and Trade), explains price tags and menus can show the breakdown of taxes and other costs (surcharges, fees, etc), but must show and without ambiguity the final for the product or service.

Pricing in Costa Rica must not be ambigous.
Pricing in Costa Rica must not be ambigous.

The rules of all-inclusive pricing is specified in the “Promoción de la Competencia y Defensa Efectiva del Consumidor”, effective as of November 2010.

Thus, the price advertised, be it for a can beans, a computer or a new or used vehicle must include all costs, ie taxes, fees, financing charges, commissions, etc.

“Price labeling must be so that there is no doubt of the final amount – including taxes, surcharges or fees – to be paid by the consumer”, explains Zapata.

If a retailer or service, for example, advertises/offers a “net” price and does not indicate the final price of the product, the consumer can demand to pay the price advertised.

A common practice by the “importadoras” (import retailers who offer financing as part of their deal) is to show the “cash” price to entice consumers. However, in the fine print of the ad they must show the final cost if financed.

The final pricing applies to all consumer goods, including vehicles, which means the sticker price on that new or used vehicle at the dealer lot is the FINAL price to be paid by the consumer. The law does not allow for the dealer to add on for this, that and the other at the time of checkout. The price sticker must include all the extras!

In the case of services, like in a restuarant, the final price must be indicated on a board, placard or menu. The law gives consumers assurances that all prices shown are all-inclusive and final and there are no hidden charges.

canasta-basica-precios-supermercado-051012p-300x256Costa Rica’s consumer laws allows pricing in “other” currencies (the most common other currency is the US dollar) so long as the consumer has the option to pay the equivalent in colones.

Zapata explains that the “other” currency pricing is allowed and recognized by the  “Ley Orgánica” of the Banco Central (Cental Bank).

Thus, the prices of goods and services can be quoted in US dollars (or other currency) as long as the consumer has the option to pay the equivalent in colones. And that equivalent is based on the exchange rate calculated daily by the Central Bank.

The consumer can demand the exchange conversion to colones is that of the Central Bank, which places in doubt the practice of many hotels and other businesses catering to tourists offering exchange rates lower than the published rates by the Central Bank.

In theory, the exchange rate posted by the business is for providing currency exchange. In practice, however, the rate is used to convert the price of the product and/or service, such as a room charge. Few visitors know the current exchange rate and even fewer know the law that allows them to demand the use of the rate set by the Central Bank on that day.

Consumers shouldn't be chicken to denounce misleading price tactics.
Consumers shouldn’t be chicken to denounce misleading price tactics.

Consumers who are victims of misleading prices can file a complaint with the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio (MEIC). Complaints can be filed online or by visiting the nearest MEIC office.