June 24, 2014
Radinsky, Head, Consumer Protection Unit
Monica City Attorney's Office
Whole Foods Markets has agreed to a court judgment under which it will pay
nearly $800,000 in penalties and investigative costs and will be subject to a
five-year court order, after a statewide investigation uncovered widespread
pricing violations throughout the state of California.
final court judgment has been entered in the Santa Monica courthouse of the Los
Angeles County Superior Court.
civil consumer protection case was brought by the City Attorneys of Santa
Monica, Los Angeles, and San Diego, on behalf of the People of the State of
case grew out of a more than one-year investigation by state and county Weights
and Measures inspectors throughout California. Inspectors found that Whole
Foods was charging more than the advertised price for a wide variety of food
items. The problems included:
to deduct the weight of containers when ringing up charges for self-serve foods
at the salad bar and hot bar;
less weight than the amount stated on the label, for packaged items sold by the
items by the piece, instead of by the pound as required by law (such as kebabs
and other prepared deli foods)
Foods Market California, Inc. (which controls all Whole Foods stores in
northern California) and Mrs. Gooch's Natural Foods Markets, Inc. (which
controls southern California stores) are bound by the terms of the judgment.
court injunction will remain in place for five years. It covers all 74 Whole
Foods stores in the state of California.
the agreed court order, Whole Foods is required to:
two "state coordinators" to oversee pricing accuracy at Whole Foods
stores throughout California;
an employee at every store in the state who will be responsible to assure pricing
accuracy throughout the store;
- Conduct random audits at each of its stores, four times per year, to assure that all prices are accurate and that proper weight is being deducted for all containers; and
accurate prices and provide the advertised weight on all items.
part of the court judgment, the companies will also pay $798,394 in penalties
and costs. This includes $630,000 in civil penalties, $100,000 paid to a
statewide weights and measures enforcement trust fund, and $68,394 in investigative
have a right to accurate pricing - and the right to pay for only what they
bought," said Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky. "By adding the
weight of containers and packaging, especially on higher-priced, per-pound
items like seafood and meats and even prepared food, the extra charges can add
up fast, and yet be hidden from consumers."
added: "We hope this case will serve as a wake-up call to supermarkets and
other food retailers to make sure their per-pound charges are accurate.
Consumers should always pay close attention to their purchases and make sure
that the store deducts the weight of all packaging and containers."
are three Whole Foods Markets in Santa Monica.