LOS ANGELES- The City Attorneys of Los Angeles, Santa Monica and San Diego have reached an $800,000 settlement with Whole Foods Markets after a statewide investigation uncovered widespread pricing violations throughout the state of California.
"We're taking action to assure consumers get what they pay for," said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. "No consumer should ever be overcharged by their local market."
The case grew out of a more than one-year investigation by state and county Weights and Measures inspectors throughout California. Inspectors, with the cooperation of Whole Foods, found that the grocery chain was charging more than the advertised price for a wide variety of food items. The problems included:
Failing to deduct the weight of containers when ringing up charges for self-serve foods at the salad bar and hot bar;
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 (such as kebabs and other prepared deli foods).
Whole Foods Market California, Inc. (which controls all Whole Foods stores in northern California) and Mrs. Gooch's Natural Foods Markets, Inc. (which controls southern California stores) are bound by the terms of the judgment.
The court injunction will remain in place for five years. It covers all 74 Whole Foods stores in the state of California.
Under the order, Whole Foods has agreed to:
Appoint two "state coordinators" to oversee pricing accuracy at Whole Foods stores throughout California;
Designate an employee at every store in the state who will be responsible to assure pricing accuracy throughout the store;
Conduct random audits at each of its stores, four times per year, to assure that all prices are accurate and that proper weight is being deducted for all containers; and
Charge accurate prices and provide the advertised weight on all items.
As part of the court judgment, the companies will also pay $798,394 in penalties and costs. This includes $630,000 in civil penalties, $100,000 paid to a statewide consumer protection trust fund, and $68,394 in investigative costs. The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office will receive $210,000 in civil penalties.
There are ten Whole Foods Markets in the City of Los Angeles.