Whole Foods Investigated for Overcharging on Pre-packaged Goods

By on June 25, 2015

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is investigating Whole Foods for overstating weights for meats, dairy, baked goods and other pre-packaged products and, consequently, overcharging consumers.

DCA determined that all of the 80 types of Whole Foods pre-packaged products tested were mislabeled for weight, indicating a systemic problem, and for 89% of those products, the difference between labeled weight and actual weight exceeded the maximum allowable deviation established by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The resulting overcharges include:

  • DCA inspected eight packages of vegetable platters, which were priced at $20/package. Consumers who purchased these packages would have been, on average, overcharged by $2.50—a profit of $20 for the eight packages. One package was overpriced by $6.15.
  • DCA inspected eight packages of chicken tenders, which were priced at $9.99/pound. Consumers who purchased these packages would have been, on average, overcharged by $4.13—a profit of $33.04 for the eight packages. One package was overpriced by $4.85.
  • DCA inspected four packages of berries, which were priced at $8.58/package. Consumers who purchased these packages would have been, on average, overcharged by $1.15—a profit of $4.60 for the four packages. One package was overpriced by $1.84.

“It is unacceptable that New Yorkers shopping for a summer BBQ or who grab something to eat from the self-service aisles at New York City’s Whole Foods stores have a good chance of being overcharged,” said DCA Commissioner Menin. “Our inspectors tell me this is the worst case of mislabeling they have seen in their careers, which DCA and New Yorkers will not tolerate. As a large chain grocery store, Whole Foods has the money and resources to ensure greater accuracy and to correct what appears to be a widespread problem—the city’s shoppers deserve to be correctly charged.”

Whole Foods potentially faces fines for thousands of incidents of mislabeled pre-packaged products in its NYC stores. False packaging label fines are as high as $950 for the first violation and up to $1,700 for a subsequent violation.

Whole Foods stores in California were investigated in 2012 for pricing irregularities which led to a civil consumer protection case. In order to settle related allegations, Whole Foods agreed to pay approximately $800,000 in penalties and establish a strict in-house pricing accuracy program that included a statewide compliance coordinator, a designated employee at each store location for pricing accuracy, and random audits.

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