Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, Inc., must pay $833,136 to settle a consumer protection case.
The San Diego District Attorney's, the San Diego City Attorney's, and the Riverside District Attorney's consumer and environmental protection units teamed up to file the case against the grocery store chain. Stores across California will benefit from the settlement.
Prosecutors filed the civil complaint against company's owners, alleging that they posted prices for items in stores and then charged more for the purchases at checkout, according to a news release.
Also alleged was that the meat and seafood packages were tagged a higher price per pound than what was listed in the shelf prices. The prosecutors contend that these actions violated false advertising and unfair competition laws. The chain has 163 Fresh & Easy stores in California and all will benefit from the lawsuit. A planned location in Glendora has not yet opened due to poor sales of surrounding stores.
“Our Consumer Protection Unit works to make sure San Diegans get what they pay for,” said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. "In this latest case, our prosecutors did an outstanding job collaborating with the City Attorney and Riverside DA’s Office to arrive at today’s significant judgment.”
The court ordered Fresh & Easy not to commit future violations and imposed a penalty of $653,470, costs of $97,163, and restitution totaling $80,000.
The money will be used to establish a "Get it Free" program. Statewide, shoppers at the stores will be able to get $3 off the lowest advertised price of an item if overcharged at the register. If the lowest advertised price for the item is $3 or less, the customer will get it for free.
Weights and measures officials brought the case to prosecutors in 12 counties in California when they documented scanner and package overchages during 124 inspections of 82 different Fresh & Easy stores, officials said.
“Our citizens need to have confidence when they shop that the price advertised is the one that is charged," San Diego City Attorney Jan I. Goldsmith said. "Actions like this are important to ensure that businesses deal fairly with their customers and compete fairly in the marketplace. ”