Wal-Mart reaches settlement for weight overcharges | VailDaily.com

Wal-Mart reaches settlement for weight overcharges

MADISON, Wis. – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will pay $25,000 to settle allegations it overcharged customers at some Wisconsin stores, state consumer protection officials said Thursday.Supercenter stores in West Bend, Fond du Lac, Antigo, Shawano and Appleton overcharged customers for bulk items including sweet potatoes, grapes and grind-it-yourself coffee.The stores charge for those products by weight, but scales at the check-out registers didn’t automatically subtract the weight of the bags from the total as required by state law, said Jim Rabbit, director of the consumer protection division of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.”This particular problem … is something very few consumers ever have the ability to notice or test,” Rabbit said.Public relations officials at the world’s largest retailer’s Bentonville, Ark., corporate headquarters didn’t immediately return a message from The Associated Press Thursday.DATCP officials offered Wal-Mart a chance to settle before a lawsuit was filed, and Wal-Mart officials cooperated during negotiations in late December, Rabbit said. The settlement was filed Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court.”Weights and measure things, they’re pretty hard to defend. There’s not a lot of discussion that goes on with this problem,” Rabbit said. “They came in and said ‘what do we need to do to settle this.”‘State weight inspectors first discovered the problem in 2003, Rabbit said. State consumer protection officials warned Wal-Mart to correct it, but inspectors discovered it again last fall, Rabbit said.Wisconsin statutes provide a $1,000 fine for each weights violation, Rabbit said. Inspectors tested 25 items at the stores in question, resulting in the $25,000 settlement, Rabbit said. Most of the money will go to the state’s school fund, he said. Interest from the $500 million fund goes to school libraries.Wal-Mart’s corporate offices also alerted all Wisconsin stores to correct the practice, Rabbit said. State inspectors still plan to make extra stops at the stores, he said.Two union-commissioned studies released in November found Wal-Mart charged the wrong prices to shoppers in California and the Midwest at a rate that exceeds federal guidelines. The studies said random purchases at 60 Wal-Mart stores in California found the wrong price came up 8.3 percent of the time. At 78 stores in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, the wrong price came 6.4 percent of the time.The studies, conducted by the University of Illinois-Chicago Center for Urban Economic Development and the University of California-Berkely, were commissioned by the United Food and Commercial Workers.The union has been trying to organize Wal-Mart workers for years. Wal-Mart officials have ripped the findings as incomplete and say they don’t apply nationwide.Shares of Wal-Mart fell 84 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $45.48 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.—On the Net:Wal-Mart: http://www.walmart.com/Wisconsin Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection: http://www.datcp.state.wi.usVail, Colorado

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