Photo: Mike Kalasnik
Target Corp. has agreed to pay about $5.4 to settle a lawsuit that alleged Target engaged in false advertising and overcharged customers. The lawsuit was filed by the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office along with the district attorneys of Alameda, Marin, Contra Costa, Santa Cruz, Ventura, and San Diego counties.
The lawsuit alleged that Target unlawfully charged customers prices higher than Target’s lowest advertised price for items. It also alleged that prices advertised on the Target mobile app changed for some items when customers entered the perimeter of a Target store. As a result, the price of certain items that were available on both the app and in the store were different prices, but that wasn’t made clear to customers.
“We are committed to prosecuting pricing accuracy violations and ensuring that businesses charge customers accurately and in compliance with California law,” said Jill Ravitch, district attorney for Sonoma County. “Consumers should always watch as items are scanned at the register and check receipts to verify that they are charged the lowest advertised or posted price for items.”
The judgment prohibits Target from engaging in false or misleading advertising, or charging an amount greater than the lowest price posted for an item. It also prohibits Target from using app-related technology that causes the price of an item to increase based on the user’s location, and requires it to clearly state where a customer can obtain the item at the advertised price.
In addition, Target will be required to carry out audit and price accuracy procedures in its California stores for seven years to ensure compliance with pricing accuracy requirements.
In addition to paying $5 million in civil penalties, Target will be required to pay $200,000 in restitution to support future enforcement of consumer protection laws and $173,618.81 in costs to the several county Departments of Agriculture in California who conducted the investigation.
Target cooperated during the investigation and has since instituted new policies and procedures to improve pricing accuracy, Ravitch said.
The Sonoma County Department of Agriculture Weights and Measures Division inspected Target stores throughout the investigation.