TJ Maxx was hit with a putative class action in New Jersey by DeNittis Osefchen Price, P.C., alleging that engaged in a uniform policy, systematic scheme and common course of conduct involving the use of deceptive and misleading sales practices in the sale of consumer goods at T.J. Maxx stores. Specifically at issue in this case, are a series of inter-related uniform policies in which TJ Maxx advertises the supposed former price of items offered for sale at T.J. Maxx stores and makes misrepresentations regarding the size of the purported price reduction at which TJ Maxx is offering to sell those items. At every T.J. Maxx store in the United States, including New Jersey, TJ Maxx employs a uniform policy of placing a tag on each such item that bears two different prices.
The first such price is the higher of the two, and is preceded by the words
“COMPARE AT” (hereafter the “COMPARE AT” price). The second price listed on each tag is a substantially lower price which lists the purportedly discounted price at which TJ Maxx is currently offering the item for sale (hereafter the lower price). No additional information is provided on the tag itself, or on the item, or in the immediate vicinity of the item, that defines the term “COMPARE AT” or otherwise offers any context for the “COMPARE AT” pricing provided.
The average consumer seeing such a tag in a store would understand the use of these two prices on the tag to be a representation by TJ Maxx that someone – either TJ Maxx or one of TJ Maxx’s competitors – actually sold or offered to sell the item at the higher “COMPARE AT” price for some length of time, and that TJ Maxx is currently offering to sell that item at a discounted price, measured as a reduction off that actual prior price. Indeed, federal law specifically prohibits a seller from making any representations regarding a purported comparison price – including use of the phrase “compare at” – unless the purported comparison price is a real price at which the item was actually sold for a substantial period of time by either the seller or a competitor in the recent past. See 16 C.F.R. § 233.2.
TJ Maxx’s policy of listing “COMPARE AT” prices on its in store price tags
flagrantly violates this federal regulation and is both deceptive and misleading. Contrary to the requirements of 16 C.F.R. § 233.2, TJ Maxx does not list a “COMPARE AT” price on the tag that is based on a real price at which the item in question was actually sold for a substantial period of time. Rather, under TJ Maxx’s uniform policy, the “COMPARE AT” price listed on
each of TJ Maxx’s in-store tags is a wholly fictitious and inflated price, created by TJ Maxx
as a marketing tool using a standardized formula; a fictional high price which is designed to induce the false and misleading impression in the minds of consumers that the consumer good bearing such a tag is currently being offered for sale at a discounted price which is lower than its actual usual selling price in the market place. This practice also serves the dual purpose of falsely conveying the impression to the consumer that the good in question is of such quality that it is actually worth that higher “COMPARE AT” price, when, in fact, the item’s actual worth is far less. In actuality, each item bearing such a “COMPARE AT” price on its in-store
price tag is not being discounted at all by TJ Maxx. Rather, the lower, purportedly-discounted price listed on the tag is actually the true, everyday, regular price at which the item is typically sold by Defendant and in the marketplace in violation of consumer protection laws.