SANTA MONICA—Grocery chain, Whole Foods Markets has agreed to a court judgment to pay close to $800,000 in penalties and investigations and is subject to a five-year court order, after a statewide investigation revealed widespread pricing violations throughout the state of California. There are three Whole Foods Markets located throughout the city of Santa Monica.

According to a press release from the City of Santa Monica website, the civil protection case was brought by the City Attorney’s of Santa Monica, Los Angeles and San Diego, on behalf of the People of the State of California.

Weights and Measures inspectors throughout the state of California found that Whole Foods charged more than the advertised price for a selection of food items. The problems included:

  • Failing to deduct the weight of containers when ringing up charges for self-serve foods at the salad bar and hot bar;
  • Giving less weight than the amount stated on the label, for packaged items sold by the pound; and
  • Selling items by the piece, instead of by the pound as required by law (such as kebabs and other prepared deli foods)

The court injunction relates to all 74 Whole Food stores in the state. Under the agreed court order, Whole Foods is required to:

  • Appoint two “state coordinators” to oversee pricing accuracy at Whole Foods stores throughout California;
  • Designate 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
  • Charge accurate prices and provide the advertised weight on all items.

The company will pay more than $798,394 in penalties and cost. This amount includes $630,000 in civil penalties, $100,000 to be paid to a statewide weights and measures enforcement trust fund and $68,394 in investigative costs.

“Consumers 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.”

Radinsky 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.”