Last updated on June 29th, 2015 at 02:55 pm
The New York Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is investigating Whole Foods after allegedly finding that the company’s New York City stores overstated the weights of its pre-packaged products—including meats, dairy and baked goods—resulting in customer overcharges.
DCA says it tested packages of 80 different types of pre-packaged products and found all of the products had packages with mislabeled weights. Additionally, 89 percent of the packages tested did not meet the federal standard for the maximum amount that an individual package can deviate from the actual weight, which is set by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The overcharges ranged from $0.80 for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 for a package of coconut shrimp.
According to DCA Commissioner Julie Menin, the findings point to a systematic problem with how products packaged for sale at Whole Foods are weighed and labeled. The snapshot suggests that individual packages are routinely not weighed or are inaccurately weighed, resulting in overcharges for consumers, she says.
The fine for falsely labeling a package is as much as $950 for the first violation and up to $1,700 for a subsequent violation. The potential number of violations that Whole Foods faces for all pre-packaged goods in the New York City stores is in the thousands. Menin says an investigation in California, which began in 2012, also found pricing irregularities in the state’s Whole Foods stores. City attorneys for Santa Monica, Los Angeles and San Diego brought a civil consumer protection case on behalf of the people of the state of California. As a result of that case, Whole Foods agreed to pay close to $800,000 in penalties and initiate a stringent in-house pricing accuracy effort that included a statewide compliance coordinator, a designated employee at each location for pricing accuracy and random audits.
In response to the New York City case, Whole Foods says it disagrees with the allegations, calling them “overreaching.” Whole Foods says it has cooperated fully with the department until “grossly excessive monetary demands” were made to settle the dispute.”