Oklahomans to Enjoy Black Friday Sales Thanks to New Law
By: Constitution Staff
Oklahoma consumers will soon enjoy legal "Black Friday" and other low-price sales for the first time since the 1940s. Senate Bill 550, by Sen. David Holt (R-Oklahoma City) and Rep. Tom Newell (R-Seminole) was signed by Gov. Mary Fallin on May 24. The bill passed the Senate, 29-16 on May 15, and the House, 65-15 on May 21.
Under a law enacted in 1941, retailers were generally required to sell products for at least six percent more than they paid for it, at all times on all products. That law was enacted at the urging of grocers who were growing weary of price wars, often times over bread or other products that were being sold below cost. The existing law impacts deals on everything from Thanksgiving turkeys to televisions to clothing, and all products in-between. The existing law doesn't just apply to low-cost prices that may occur during special sales, but all low prices that a retailer may charge any day of the year.
Because many retailers were not aware of the old law, it was often ignored. But, a December 2011 opinion from the Oklahoma Attorney General confirmed that the law barred all "Black Friday" and other low-price sales, even if they were only temporary. Many retailers who were not fully complying with the law then shut down their "Black Friday" and other low-price sales until Oklahoma's laws were modernized. It is believed that only two states have a law so restrictive -- Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
The current law also puts Oklahoma retailers who don't comply at great risk. Companies doing business in Oklahoma have been sued under the law for giving consumers a bargain on products. Retailers are also subject to arrest for giving consumers a bargain. Sen. Holt said Dillards, Walmart and Safeway are just some of the companies who have been sued under the current law. Holt said Walmart started abiding by the obscure law during Black Friday last year when they advertised a 32" LCD TV for $210 in Oklahoma but that same TV was sold in other states for only $148. So Holt authored Senate Bill 550, to make big sales legal in Oklahoma. "If somebody wants to sell you a 70-inch television for $50 on Black Friday, they ought to be able to do that," Holt said. "That's good for consumers. That's good for retailers. It's good for the economy."
SB 550 allows Oklahoma retailers to sell general merchandise products at any price below their cost up to 15 days in a row on a specific product, up to 10 times a year. Groceries, drugs, gas, and lumber will still be subject to the law as before, but the pricing of most other products will fall under the provisions of SB 550. "I have never believed that Oklahomans should pay higher retail prices only because the government says they should. Under the provisions of SB 550, the consumer will enjoy low prices on the products they expect when they expect, and that's the way it should be," Holt said.
Holt said his bill protects the fuel industry and prescription drugs from changes to the existing law, and would continue to safeguard consumers from predatory pricing that can allegedly lead to unfair competition. The Oklahoma Antitrust Reform Act, which is not affected in any way by SB 550, will continue to bar retailers from engaging in allegedly predatory pricing that hampers competition among retailers.
"Oklahomans will now be able to enjoy the same sales consumers in other states do," said Rep. Newell. "I believe the free market helps businesses and consumers. As such, this law was outdated, and I am glad to have been able to help change it." SB 550 will take effect November 1, 2013, just in time for holiday shopping.
CUTLINE FOR PHOTOS: Pricing disparities like this will soon be a thing of the past. These Walmart circulars, one from Oklahoma and one from Oklahoma's bordering states, illustrate the higher prices that Oklahoma law required Walmart to charge consumers during its 2012 "Black Friday" sales.
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