Specialty grocery store company Whole Foods Market has agreed to pay $800,000 as part of a settlement in a statewide pricing case that found the company was charging more than the advertised price for certain foods.
The case grew out of a more than one-year investigation by state and county Weights and Measures inspectors throughout California, according to the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office.
"We're taking action to assure consumers get what they pay for," said City Attorney Mike Feuer. "No consumer should ever be overcharged by their local market."
Violations identified by the inspectors included failing to deduct the weight of containers when charging for food at self-service food stations and giving less product than the amount stated on the label.
Inspectors also found stores breaking the law by selling certain items, like prepared deli foods, by the piece instead of the pound.
A whole foods spokeswoman said the company cooperated with authorities. They also said an internal investigation found their prices were accurate 98 percent of the time.
"Whole Foods Market takes our obligations to our customers very seriously and we strive to ensure accuracy and transparency in everything we do," Marci Frumkin, a Whole Foods spokeswoman, said in a statement. "While we realize that human error is always possible, we will continue to refine and implement additional processes to minimize such errors going forward.”
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Of the total settlement, $630,000 is allocated for civil penalties, $100,000 is designated to a statewide consumer protection trust fund and $68,394 is for investigative costs.
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None of the money will be directly reimbursed to Whole Foods customers.
State "monitors" will conduct random audits to ensure prices are accurate at Whole Foods stores in California. The injunction will remain in place for five years.