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Fresh & Easy Settles Lawsuit That Alleged Illegal Advertising

As part of the settlement, Fresh & Easy was ordered to institute a "Get it Free" program.

The owner of Fresh & Easy stores—including those in Southwest Riverside County—has agreed to settle a lawsuit that claimed the company violated laws prohibiting false advertising and unfair competition, Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach announced today.

The suit filed by the Riverside County and San Diego County District Attorney offices, as well as the San Diego City Attorney’s Office, claimed the giant retailer posted prices and advertisements in its Fresh & Easy grocery stores but then charged consumers more at the checkout.

The Delaware-based Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Inc. was fined $833,136 for the alleged pricing errors.

Additionally, prosecutors alleged that meat and seafood packages in the meat department were marked at a higher price per pound than indicated on the shelf.

The alleged tactics are illegal, Riverside County DA’s Office spokesman John Hall said.

As part of the settlement, Fresh & Easy was ordered not to commit violations in the future and to institute, for the next three years, a “Get It Free” program. In that program, shoppers at Fresh & Easy stores throughout California will be entitled to receive $3 off the lowest advertised price of an item if they are overcharged at the register. If the lowest advertised price for the item is $3 or less, the consumer will receive it for free, Hall explained.

There are 163 Fresh & Easy grocery stores in California, 13 of which are in Riverside County.

As part of the settlement, the corporation must pay the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office $217,823 in penalties plus an additional $10,000 in costs, Hall said. An additional $2,484 must be paid to the Riverside County Division of Weights and Measures, he added.

If consumers believe they have been a victim of similar violations, the Riverside County Division of Weights and Measures provides a citizen complaint form online at http://www.rivcoag.org/opencms/system/galleries/download/Forms/CITIZEN_complaint_form.pdf.

This case was brought to the attention of prosecutors by weights and measures officials in 12 California counties after they documented scanner and package overcharges during 124 inspections of 82 Fresh & Easy stores, Hall said.

The final judgment was signed Jan. 18 by San Diego Superior Court Judge Randa Trapp. The case was handled in Riverside County by Deputy District Attorney Elise Farrell of the DA’s Consumer Fraud Unit.

Gandhi January 23, 2013 at 05:34 AM
Glad to see they have been made to pay for the crooked practices!! However, I seriously doubt that most people will be aware of their ability to collect $3.00 if overcharged by them in future, not only do people not always read their bills, but how many do you think actually read this article?
Corinne Federico January 23, 2013 at 04:45 PM
LOL
TVOR January 23, 2013 at 05:41 PM
If you get to the register and a price comes up higher than the shelf tag, you have a right to demand the tag price.
Ilse von Kriegenbergh January 23, 2013 at 07:43 PM
I am a fresh and easy shopper, and I love their own products, because they do not use high fructose, their ice cream is certainly the best. I have been overcharged at Albertsons and mostly recently 2x at Ralphs. I always check my receipt before I leave the store, this way you can correct the overcharge right away. it is a hassle. the last time I was overcharged at Ralphs, I just ran into the store to get some berries. I did not have my Ralphs reward card on me. I was going back to my car and get it, but the checker said that the item was not on sale, so I believed her. At night I checked their ads and it was on sale and the overcharge was 3 dollars, since I did not have the receipt anymore. I could not go back, lesson learned never throw your receipt away.
James Q. January 24, 2013 at 02:01 AM
And that's why you should shop at Sprouts. Better prices, better quality, better selection, and much more healthier. Thank you Sprouts!

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