LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The city attorneys in Los Angeles, Santa Monica and San Diego reached an $800,000 settlement with Whole Foods Market after a statewide investigation uncovered widespread pricing violations, officials said Tuesday.
With the cooperation of Whole Foods, state and county Weights and Measures inspectors throughout California conducted a more than one-year investigation and found that the grocery chain was charging more than the advertised price for a wide variety of food items.
KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta reports some of the issues included stores failing to deduct the weight of containers when ringing up charges for self-serve foods at the salad and hot bars, giving less weight than the amount stated on the label for packaged items sold by the pound and selling items by the piece, instead of by the pound, as required by law.
“We’re taking action to assure consumers get what they pay for,” L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer said. “No consumer should ever be overcharged by their local market. A consumer who walks into a Whole Foods store or any supermarket for that matter needs to know with confidence that they are getting what they paid for.”
Whole Foods Market California Inc., which controls all Northern California stores, and Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Foods Markets Inc., which controls Southern California stores, are bound by the terms of the judgment that will remain in place for five years.
The 74 Whole Foods stores in California, including 10 in Los Angeles, will implement the changes, which include appointing two “state coordinators” to oversee pricing accuracy, designating an employee at every store who will be responsible for assuring pricing accuracy, conducting random audits at each of its stores to assure that all prices are accurate and that proper weight is being deducted for all containers, charging accurate prices and providing the advertised weight on all items.
Whole Foods will also pay $798,394 in penalties and costs, including $630,000 in civil penalties, $100,000 to a statewide consumer protection trust fund and $68,394 in investigative costs.
The L.A. City Attorney’s Office will receive $210,000 in civil penalties.
In a statement, Whole Foods Market said: “We cooperated with the city attorneys throughout the process, and based on a review of our own records and a sampling of inspection reports from various city and county inspectors throughout California, our pricing on weighed and measured items was accurate 98 percent of the time.”