Overcharging Customers Costs Target $4M

Target will pay almost $4 million to settle accusations that it charged California consumers higher prices than the retailer advertised because of faulty checkout scanners, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The $3.9 million fine follows a similar $2.25 million settlement with supermarket chain Safeway last year.

District attorneys from five California counties, along with San Diego’s city attorney, sued Target for charging higher prices than advertised, misrepresenting the weights of products and failing to ensure that price scanners at checkout stands were accurate. The suit also said Target had violated a previous injunction from 2008 that required the chain to make sure its checkout price scanners were accurate.

Under the settlement deal, Target didn’t admit liability, but agreed to be bound by a permanent injunction barring it from making false or misleading statements, charging more than the lowest posted price, and selling items in lower quantity than represented. The chain also agreed to audit price accuracy at its California stores more frequently, train employees to make sure prices are accurate, and hire an outside auditor to make sure weights are accurate in Target-branded products.

A Target spokesman said some of the problems stemmed from promotional signs not being removed immediately after a promotion ended. The company has taken steps to resolve the issues, he said.

The lawsuit was brought by district attorneys from Marin, Contra Costa, Fresno, Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties and the San Diego city attorney’s office. Some of those DAs, whose consumer protection units uncovered the pricing problems, were also behind a similar lawsuit against Safeway that resulted in a $2.25 million settlement in March 2014. Safeway also lost a consumer lawsuit in December 2014 that claimed it overcharged home-delivery customers.

For Target, a bigger concern is the continuing legal fallout from the late-2013 data breach that exposed credit and debit card information for as many as 70 million accounts. That cost the retailer its CEO, and spawned lawsuits by both affected consumers and card-issuing financial institutions.