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Ralphs, Kroger accused of overcharging in LA

May 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Ralphs and its parent company, the Kroger Co. grocery chain are charged with allegedly overcharging L.A. customers.The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office filed numerous charges against the grocery chain, accusing them of false and misleading advertising and of overcharging and false labeling. Ralphs and Kroger face up to $256,000 of fines and penalties.

Ralphs faces 14 counts of false and misleading advertising, 18 violations of unlawful computation of value, 9 violations of selling prepackaged items in less quantity than represented and 18 violations of false labeling.

"We've got three basic kinds of violations. One is frozen items that have an ice glaze on them, and the ice isn't being defrosted properly so the customer is paying for water," explained Deputy City Attorney Don Cocek. "There are other violations where Ralphs doesn't appear to be deducting for the price of the package like bulk coffee which is sold for $10.99 a pound, the customer is paying $10.99 a pound for the bag that it comes in."

The L.A. City Attorney's Office said that Ralphs has continued to overcharge on coffee products even after they were issued a warning in the fall.

"I buy the coffee all the time. You go there hoping that you can trust them because how are you supposed to know? You're not going to go home and weigh it," said another Ralphs customer Amy Crawford. "It's ridiculous."

Officials say that most of the violations were on seafood products, Tully's coffee, items sold at the salad bar and the store's cooked barbeque chicken.

"I'm shocked, because I thought Ralphs was a very reputable store. I've been coming here since my mom was bringing me here since I was a baby," said Ralphs customer Josh Freeman. "I don't know if I'll do my grocery shopping here anymore."

Authorities from L.A. County Department of Weights and Measures say that undercover inspections consisting of a series of test purchases made between Jan.20 and March 9 at 14 Ralphs stores in L.A. found that the grocery chain was charging customers inflated prices for prepackaged and weighed products.

"Items are being sold in so many pieces per package and the package has a weight on there, like eight pieces of chicken is supposed to be 30 ounces and the 30 is printed on the label. Well, eight pieces of chicken sometimes doesn't equal 30 ounces. It's less than that," Cocek said.

This is not the first time Ralphs has encountered such violations, as it was cited for similar infractions in 2008 and 2009 and ended up paying almost $17,000 in fines.

Ralphs and Kroger representatives say that the companies will conduct their own investigations.

"We take our relationship with our customers very, very seriously, and it is their trust that we work hard to maintain every single day. We'll do whatever it takes to make this right and any other concerns our customers ever have," said Ralphs spokesperson Kendra Doyel at a Tuesday press conference.

Ralphs representatives will have to appear in court for arraignment on June 29

AP and CNS contributed to this report.