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CAMP HILL, Pa. -- Rite Aid Corp. here and Rite Aid of New Jersey are the defendants in a lawsuit filed this week by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office and the Division of Consumer Affairs, alleging that the drug chain sold expired merchandise, including nonprescription drugs, infant formula, and baby food, and charged consumers prices higher than those listed on the shelf.
The suit, filed in State Superior Court in Union County, seeks civil penalties, consumer restitution, and to the removal and destruction of all expired nonprescription drugs, infant formula, or baby food from any Rite Aid location in New Jersey. Attorney general Stuart Rabner and acting director Stephen B. Nolan claimed the defendants with violating the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) and the Weights and Measures Act, as well as the terms of prior agreements with the division.
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"It is unconscionable that a store would sell expired merchandise -- especially infant formula, baby food, and nonprescription medications -- to unsuspecting consumers who rely on these products for the care and welfare of their loved ones," said Rabner in a statement. "The behavior of these stores is even more egregious because they had previously agreed not to engage in any such violations and cease and desist from selling expired products."
Added Nolan: "We would expect that these stores would not sell expired merchandise. Unfortunately, our investigators found otherwise and directed the managers at the stores that were inspected to remove expired products from the shelves. It is our intention that this suit will halt all sales of expired or overpriced merchandise and ensure that consumers are protected."
Rite Aid defended its existing policies to make sure that the violations alleged by the state don't happen, and said it was checking into what may have occurred at the stores named in the suit.
"Our policies have always been to not have outdated products on our shelves, to prominently post the refund policies in all stores and to make sure that the product price on the shelf matches what's in the register," Rite Aid spokeswoman Jody Cook told the Asbury Park, N.J. Press.
Cook said the company would retrain employees to follow its existing procedures, such as inspecting the shelves weekly and removing any items within 30 days of an expiration date.
The suit stems from an investigation carried out by the division from August through October 2006 at the majority of the approximately 159 Rite Aid stores in New Jersey. The investigators allegedly turned up violations that included the sale of expired merchandise at approximately 42 retail stores; charging consumers prices that exceed the price posted at the point of display; and improper price scanning by at least 76 store stores.