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Ralphs supermarkets fined over pricing discrepancies

May 1, 2012 |  4:01 pm

A Riverside County judge has ordered Ralphs and its parent company, Ohio-based Kroger Co., to pay $300,000 in penalties for selling frozen dairy desserts and other items with inaccurate prices and labeling.

State inspectors, responding to a consumer complaint, in 2009 found that several flavors of Ralphs and Kroger brand Frozen Dairy Dessert had up to 15% less volume than advertised. A year later, state inspectors found that Ralphs stores were not accurately advertising unit prices on a number of products, according to the Riverside County district attorney’s office.

Unit prices are often listed on shelf tags in the store and allow consumers to compare different brands by price per ounce or other measures.

Judge Gloria Trask on April 27 issued an injunction requiring all Ralphs and Food 4 Less stores in Riverside County to hire a “pricing integrity coordinator” for each store to ensure that information on store shelf tags was accurate.

The judge also ordered the grocery companies to pay $190,386 in civil fines and $50,000 in reimbursements to investigative agencies, according to a statement by Dist. Atty. Paul Zellerbach.

Because identifying consumers affected by the mislabeling was impractical, the judge ordered the companies to pay $50,000 in restitution to the local Second Harvest Food Bank.

Company spokeswoman Kendra Doyel said in an email statement that Kroger, Ralphs and its affiliates are "committed to complying with all laws," adding, "We strictly monitor Weights and Measures compliance. We made the business decision to resolve this, enabling us to move forward."


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-- Phil Willon in Riverside