New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Julie Menin on Dec. 28 announced a settlement agreement with Whole Foods Market. The agreement, which settles DCA’s investigation into the supermarket’s mislabeling of pre-packaged products, requires Whole Foods to:
Conduct quarterly in-store audits of at least 50 products from 10 different departments at all New York City stores to help ensure products are accurately weighed and labeled, and to correct all inaccuracies;
In the event that DCA inspectors identify mislabeled pre-packaged foods at a Whole Foods Store, that store must immediately remove all mislabeled products and, within 15 days, Whole Foods must check the accuracy of that product’s pricing, as well as 20 additional products from the same department, at all New York City stores;
Implement and enforce policies and procedures that require employees not estimate the weight of a package but rather individually weigh each package and only label the package with a label that is based on the weight of the actual contents; and,
Conduct trainings for all New York City employees who are involved in weighing and labeling products.
“After discovering the troubling and repeated mislabeling of pre-packaged goods at Whole Foods last year, we are happy to have reached an agreement with Whole Foods that will help to ensure New Yorkers are better protected from overcharging,” said Menin. “Whether it’s a bodega in the Bronx or a national grocery store in Manhattan, we believe every business needs to treat its customers fairly and, with this agreement, we hope Whole Foods will deliver on its promise to its customers to correct their mistakes. DCA will also continue its vigilance in making sure New Yorkers are protected every time they check out at the grocery.”
DCA regularly inspects all of the city’s supermarkets for labeling, scanner and scale accuracy, and pricing. This settlement agreement resolves DCA’s investigation of the labeling of pre-packaged products in the company’s New York City stores, which DCA originally announced in June 2015.
In a statement, Whole Foods Market said it worked closely with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs over the last several months to reach an agreement that is in the “best interest of the people of the city of New York and our stakeholders. Unfortunately the DCA has misrepresented this agreement. WFM has had in place preexisting pricing and weights/measures programs including a third party auditing and training program and a 100 percent pricing accuracy guarantee that gives customers a full refund on any item inadvertently mispriced. These are pre-existing programs that go above and beyond the DCA’s requirements.
“Furthermore, the DCA’s allegations of violations on weighted/measured items were limited to New York City, and as our joint agreement states, there was no evidence of systematic or intentional misconduct by anyone in the Northeast region or the rest of the company. While WFM refused to consider the DCA’s initial demands of $1.5 million, we agreed to $500,000 in order to put this issue behind us so that we can continue to focus our attention on providing our New York City customers with the highest level of quality and service.”