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Safeway Caught Secretly Charging Online Shoppers 10 Percent More

Grocery giant Safeway secretly charged online-grocery customers prices that were more than 10 percent higher than its website advertised and will have to refund the money to consumers, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday (Dec. 10).

And while the court may not yet know how much Safeway will have to pay, the 1,335-store chain should have all the payment data to exactly calculate the damages.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar found that Safeway added 10 cents per dollar to the prices it actually charged for home-delivered groceries, above the delivery fees and taxes that it also added. Safeway said its practice was covered by its delivery service’s terms and conditions, which said the website prices were “estimated prices only.”

Judge Tigar disagreed. “The Special Terms promise that, with the exception of the actually disclosed special charges and delivery fees, the prices charged for safeway.com products will be those charged in the physical store where the groceries are delivered,” Tigar wrote. “Since Safeway actually marked up the charges for the in-store prices beyond the disclosed delivery and special charges, the Court grants summary judgment that Safeway breached its contract with its customers.”

The ruling came in a class-action lawsuit filed in June 2011 by a father and daughter who bought groceries online from Safeway, Courthouse News reported.

It’s not immediately clear how much Safeway will have to pay in refunds. But unlike the situation in many consumer class-action lawsuits, because all Safeway home-delivery orders were made electronically, the chain has complete payment records covering who ordered groceries from its website for home delivery, what they bought and how much they actually paid.

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