Walmart fined $1.64 million for unlawful pricing practices in New Jersey

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 391 views 

Walmart has settled claims of unlawful unit pricing in 64 New Jersey stores. Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced the $1.64 million settlement on Tuesday. The settlements include a $1.61 million civil penalty, according to the release.

Walmart is accused of using inaccurate unit pricing for several grocery products sold in its New Jersey stores in 2023. Prior store inspections of Walmart stores in 2021 and 2022 led to $226,950 in assessed fines against the retailer for pricing violations.

Walmart responded with the following statement regarding the settlement: “We believe a settlement is in the best interest of all involved. We’ll always work to provide our customers everyday low prices they can count on.”

The law requires grocery retailers to display the price of food, cleaning products, coffee, cereal, and other regulated commodities using a standard unit of measurement set by regulation – such as quart, pound, or per 100 sheets. Unit pricing makes it easier for consumers to compare prices of products packaged in different sizes or quantities to determine which is the best value for their money.

The consent order said during the first three months of 2023, inspections of Walmart stores found more than 2,000 instances where the incorrect unit of measurement was used. In addition to using incorrect units of measurement, various units of measurement were often used within the same category of merchandise – such as using per can, per pound, or per 100-count for coffee – making it difficult, if not impossible, for shoppers to compare prices.

“As the price of grocery items continues to rise, it’s more important than ever to ensure consumers have all the information they need – and are entitled to by law – to make educated decisions on how to spend their money,” Platkin said in a statement.  “The significant fine Walmart will pay as a result of this settlement sends a clear message that New Jersey will not allow retailers to engage in unlawful pricing practices that deny shoppers the ability to easily compare prices to figure out which product is a better buy.”

Terms of the consent order require Walmart to use the approved unit of measure for every regulated commodity sold or advertised. Within 90 days of the settlement, the retailer must include training regarding Walmart’s obligation to comply with New Jersey’s unit pricing laws and regulations for new employees working in New Jersey Walmart stores who have pricing responsibilities. Walmart also must conduct internal audits for three years, with each New Jersey Walmart store audited at least once a year. The internal audits will include the random sampling of 100 regulated items, and an audit revealing errors in more than 2% of the products sampled at any one store shall constitute a failed audit.

Twice a year, Walmart must submit to the Division a corrective action plan for failed audits during the preceding six-month period, along with a summary of likely reasons and efforts to prevent future unit pricing errors. They must also retain all reports and records of every internal audit for three years and provide them to the Division upon request.

Dollar General settled for $1.2 million in November 2023 for similar claims of overcharging customers based on incorrect unit counts in New Jersey stores.

“We’re putting chain retailers on notice that repeatedly violating New Jersey’s pricing laws will not result in fines they can easily absorb as the cost of doing business,” said Cari Fais, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “To protect our consumers, we are pursuing significant penalties that hold companies accountable for financial harm they inflict on consumers and deter them from future unlawful conduct.”