Lawmakers call on FTC to investigate equity concerns with digital store coupons

Digital store-issued coupons can be a convenient way for shoppers to save money, but not everyone has access to the technology needed to redeem these discounts or deals.

Now a group of lawmakers is calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate equity concerns, particularly when it comes to older Americans and low-income customers.

“We want to make sure we have equity across the board and if people need to use coupons to get access to food or other goods, that they’re available to all people,” said Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.).

Our Washington News Bureau spoke with Strickland about a letter she led to the FTC, which was co-signed by more than a dozen other members in the House.

“We respectfully request your agency open an investigation under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act to examine the harm that the lack of access to store-issued digital coupons is having on consumers, particularly senior citizens, low-income individuals, and those without Internet access or digital devices,” the letter said.

The letter points to examples such as an 18-count carton of eggs costing $3.49 at a supermarket; but with a digital app, the cost would be reduced to $1.99.

Strickland said she wants the FTC to look into whether these digital apps are further widening the digital divide.

“Does this discriminate against people who don’t have digital access and if they do have digital access, is it easy to use for all people?” said Strickland.

The FTC confirmed it had received the letter but would not comment further.

The letter points out that consumer protection groups have called on stores to offer alternatives such as physical paper copies of coupons, or honoring the digital price during the check-out process if a customer makes the request.

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