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Whole Foods Market has reached an agreement with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) that the grocer said “is in the best interest of the people of the City of New York and our stakeholders” – it will pay $500,000 to settle the DCA’s claims that it routinely overcharged Big Apple customers for prepackaged foods.
The settlement also includes quarterly in-store audits; the implementation and enforcement of policies and procedures that require employees not to estimate the weight of a package, but instead to individually weigh each package and only label the package based on the weight of the actual contents; and training for all New York City Whole Foods associates who weigh and label products.
“Whether it’s a bodega in the Bronx or a national grocery store in Manhattan, we believe every business needs to treat its customers fairly and, with this agreement, we hope Whole Foods will deliver on its promise to its customers to correct their mistakes,” noted DCA Commissioner Julie Menin.
Despite the settlement, which it claims the DCA “has misrepresented,” Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods maintains that it “had in place pre-existing pricing and weights/measures programs, including a third-party auditing and training program and a 100 percent pricing accuracy guarantee that gives customers a full refund on any item inadvertently mispriced. These are pre-existing programs that go above and beyond the DCA’s requirements. Furthermore, the DCA’s allegations of violations on weighted/measured items were limited to New York City, and as our joint agreement states, there was no evidence of systematic or intentional misconduct by anyone in the Northeast region or the rest of the company.”
DCA originally demanded $1.5 million, but Whole Foods said that it agreed to pay $500,000 “in order to put this issue behind us so that we can continue to focus our attention on providing our New York City customers with the highest level of quality and service.”