Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach announced that Delaware-based Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, Inc., the owner of Fresh & Easy stores, has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the Riverside County and San Diego County district attorney’s offices as well as the San Diego City Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors filed a civil complaint in San Diego County alleging that Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, Inc. posted prices and advertisements in Fresh & Easy grocery stores listing a price for items but then charged consumers more than those prices at the time of checkout.
Additionally, prosecutors alleged that meat and seafood packages in the meat department were marked at a higher price per pound than indicated on the shelf. Such actions violate laws prohibiting false advertising and unfair competition.
As part of the settlement, Fresh & Easy was ordered not to commit violations in the future and to institute,for the next three years, a “Get It Free” program. In that program, shoppers at Fresh & Easy stores throughout California will be entitled to receive $3 off the lowest advertised price of an item if they are overcharged at the register.
If the lowest advertised price for the item is $3 or less, the consumer will receive it for free.
There are 163 Fresh & Easy grocery stores in California, 13 of which are in Riverside County.
As part of the settlement, the corporation must pay the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office $217,823 in penalties plus an additional $10,000 in costs. An additional $2,484 must be paid to the Riverside County Division of Weights and Measures.
If consumers believe they have been a victim of similar violations, the Riverside County Division of Weights and Measures provides a citizen complaint form online.
This case was brought to the attention of prosecutors by weights and measures officials in 12 California counties after they documented scanner and package overcharges during 124 inspections of 82 Fresh & Easy stores.
The final judgment was signed on Jan. 18, 2013, by San Diego Superior Court Judge Randa Trapp.
This case was handled in Riverside County by Deputy District Attorney Elise Farrell of the DA’s Consumer Fraud Unit.