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New York State Attorney (AG) General Eric T. Schneiderman and Price Chopper have reached an agreement requiring the supermarket chain to change the way it advertises and promotes its coupons in the state and to pay a $100,000 penalty. The agreement comes in the wake of an investigation spurred by complaints about Price Chopper-issued coupons that failed to disclose restrictions.
“In the current economy, it is more important than ever that consumers be presented with clear information about the terms and conditions of coupons and other sale offers,” said Schneiderman. “Price Chopper used deceptive business practices to mislead price-conscious consumers and extract hard-earned money from them by hindering their ability to shop competitively and save on groceries. [The] agreement ensures that consumers will be protected from misleading advertising at these stores in the future.”
Price Chopper, however, characterized the AG’s description of the matter as “inflammatory,” and called the portrayal of its conduct “false, misleading and inaccurate in significant respects."
The AG office’s investigation found that Price Chopper advertised that it accepted double coupons at its stores without disclosing important restrictions that applied to that policy. After implementing a corporate-wide policy that limited the doubling of coupons “up to 99 cents,” Price Chopper failed to disclose this information in its advertisements, leading consumers to believe that $1 coupons would be doubled, the AG’s office said. Before the corporate policy was adopted, the grocer’s double-coupon policies had varied from store to store.
The Schenectady, N.Y.-based Northeast regional grocer responded that the agreement it signed didn’t say that Price Chopper had intended to harm shoppers or cause losses, “let alone millions of lost savings to customers.” What the agreement actually asserted, according to the company, was that "Price Chopper inconsistently denoted in its advertising the dollar-value limit of its double-coupon policy during select weeks in June 2011, January 2012 and April 2012 in Syracuse and Cortland, N.Y.”
The grocer noted that it decided to sign the aggreement "after considering the likely cost of alternative actions, and because settling the matter will allow us to focus on serving our customers," adding that it had been in contact with the AG to express its concerns, and was awaiting a response.
Under the terms of the agreement, Price Chopper, which has 79 stores in New York, as well as locations in Connecticut, Masschusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont, must clearly and conspicuously disclose any face-value limits on coupon redemption, and will pay civil penalties and costs to the Empire State.