Price Check: LA Accuses Ralphs of Overcharging

Charges stem from a series of test purchases

The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office filed criminal charges Tuesday against Ralphs Grocery Co. and its parent company, accusing the chain of overcharging customers for prepackaged and weighed products.

According to city prosecutors, a series of test purchases made from 14 Ralphs stores in the city resulted in 27 violations of overcharging.

"Many of the violations were for the store's illegally charging for the weight of the package or including the ice glaze on frozen products in the net weight. Many prepackaged items were also found to be under the labeled weight posted," the release stated.

"During one inspection at one Ralph's Granada Hills location, an inspector purchased four packages of fried chicken labeled at a net weight of 30 ounces. The inspector found the actual lot weight of the product to be short by 3.5 percent per package," according to the release.

Many prepackaged items were also found to be under the labeled weight, city prosecutors allege.

"There's absolutely no malicious intent in this situation whatsoever," said Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra Doyel. "It would be an oversight and something we would work very hard to correct."

The company has launched an internal investigation, said Doyel.

Ralph's is owned by The Kroger Co., which had fiscal 2009 sales of $76.7 billion.

In a news release from the City Attorney's office, authorities said the undercover test purchases were made between Jan. 20 and March 9.

At a Ralphs location on Wilshire Boulevard, an undercover inspector bought a self-service salad and determined the store did not deduct packaging weight when the purchase price was calculated, according to the City Attorney's office.

Ralph's and Kroger are each charged with violations of the Business and Professions Code. The violations include 14 counts of false and misleading advertising, 18 violations of unlawful computation of value, nine violations of selling prepackaged commodities in less quantity than represented and 18 violations of false labeling.

Ralphs was cited for similar violations in 2008 and 2009 and paid nearly $17,000 in fines.

Ralphs and Kroger could each face fines and penalty assessments up to  $256,000, according to city prosecutors.

LAist created a Google map featuring the 14 Ralphs locations. Click and drag on the map to find a location.
 


View Ralphs Grocery Store Locations Charged by L.A. City Attorney in a larger map

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