L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer, along with the City Attorneys for Santa Monica and San Diego, announced the settlement this afternoon, saying the deal puts an end to a one-year probe into claims that Whole Foods was charging higher than advertised prices.
Among the problems alleged by investigators:
• That Whole Foods failed to deduct the weight of containers when ringing up charges for self-serve foods at the salad bar and hot bar;
• That the actual weight of packaged food items sold by the pound was less than the weight stated on the label.
• That Whole Foods was selling prepared food and deli items by the piece, instead of by the pound as required by state law.
The settlement, in which Whole Foods admits no wrongdoing, covers all 74 Whole Foods stores in California. In addition to the slap-on-the-wrist $800,000 penalty, there are other restrictions involved in the deal.
For at least the next five years, the company must appoint two “state coordinators” to oversee pricing accuracy at Whole Foods stores throughout California. Each store must designate an employee who will be responsible for checking pricing accuracy. Whole Foods must also conduct four random audits a year at each store to check on the accuracy of prices and that container weights are being deducted correctly.
“No consumer should ever be overcharged by their local market,” says Feuer, though we have to admit it’s a state state of affairs when anyone refers to Whole Foods as “their local market.”