The county Board of Supervisors is working on tighter rules on going-out-of-business sales in an attempt to crack down on businesses that advertise such sales, but don’t close.
State law holds that businesses cannot advertise or insinuate that they are going out of business without first paying a fee for a permit from the local Commissioner of the Revenue. But some businesses set up those sales and never actually close shop.
“They say they’re going out of business because that’s a great way to get people in, and then they don’t actually go out of business,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “So if you pay the fee and if you are going out of business, we are defining what it means when you go out of business in our ordinance.”
The new rules would bring the county’s laws in line with state law, allowing the Commissioner of Revenue to get an inventory of the store’s remaining stock. Only that inventory can then be sold. A business that breaks the new rules can be charged with a misdemeanor.
Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) agreed that’s an annoying practice, but said the new rule is government overreach.
“I also don’t know how this is a consumer protection issue,” Randall said. “This is not payday lending. If I buy a mattress from someone who says they’re going out of [business], and the mattress is a good price, and they give me a mattress, I haven’t been abused as a consumer. I haven’t had any consumer damage happen to me.”
But other supervisors said consumers are being deceived.
“If you see a sign that says going out of business, you assume they’re selling off their goods and you will get a great price,” said Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian). “But some of these stores at this point in time literally jack up their prices.”
Letourneau said that’s a debate for the General Assembly.
“We’re trying to correct that piece that is missing in our compliance with the Code of Virginia,” he said.
Supervisors voted to move ahead with a public hearing on the new ordinance Thursday, Feb. 22 by a 6-3 vote, with Randall and Supervisors Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) and Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) opposed.
An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated the new ordinance was adopted; supervisors voted to send it to a public hearing, a necessary step before adopting a new ordinance.