Ralphs Grocery Co. will pay more than $1.1 million in civil penalties, costs and restitution to settle allegations that it overcharged customers for deli and other weighted food products, LA. Biz reports.
The settlement, approved Thursday by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, calls for Ralphs to pay $1 million in civil penalties, with $500,000 going to the office of the Los Angeles City Attorney and $500,00 going to the Los Angeles County District Attorney. It also will pay $100,000 in restitution and $13,820 in costs to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
Los Angeles prosecutors said Ralphs stores in 2009 overcharged customers by failing to deduct the weight of packaging on some prepackaged and weighed food products, including containers or the weight of ice on seafood.
Los Angeles-based Ralphs has previously had similar claims against it. In February 2011, Ralphs entered no contest pleas to 62 criminal counts including false and misleading advertising; unlawful computation of value; selling prepackaged commodities in a lesser quantity than represented; and false labeling, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
Under last week’s settlement, Ralphs did not acknowledge liability but agreed to not charge a value for an item that is more than the price advertised posted, marked displayed or quoted; and not make any false or misleading statements to the public on the price of items. It also must maintain a compliance program for four years that will include an in-store audit of 50 randomly selected products, including 30 point-of-sale items in the deli, bakery, meat/seafood, bulk coffee and produce sections.
“During these tough times, shoppers must be protected from misleading and unfair pricing practices, especially when they’re buying groceries for their families,” City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said in a statement. “Ralphs and other big companies will be called out and held accountable when they overcharge and short-weight consumers. The city and our residents will not tolerate such bad corporate behavior.”
Ralphs issued a statement saying it “continues to assert that the underlying violations that led to the investigation were inadvertent and unintentional.” It added that “there is nothing misleading nor unfair to Ralphs’ pricing” and that it has improved in this area.
“Ralphs is industry-leading and will continue to be when it comes to providing our customers accurate pricing and precise labeling,” the statement said. “We take these matters very seriously and any inadvertent discrepancies were corrected immediately for our customers. We have decided to put this behind us, and we are pleased the investigation is finally complete. We look forward to continuing to serve our customers throughout Southern California.”
Ralphs operates 248 supermarkets and is unit of The Kroger Co., which is based in Cincinnati, Ohio.