Caleb Haley purchased a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at Safeway in one of many grocery large’s “Purchase One, Get One Free” promotions, paying $7.49. The identical tub price $4 the day earlier than the deal began and dropped again all the way down to that worth instantly after it ended.
Alleged promotional pricing practices like these by the nationwide grocer are misleading and unlawful, based on a lawsuit Haley filed this week, claiming practically one million California customers have been harmed.
At its 243 California shops, together with dozens within the Bay Space, Safeway illegally jacks up costs on meals offered within the “BOGO” and “Purchase One, Get Two Free” promotions, the lawsuit in Northern California U.S. District Courtroom claimed, contending that California’s unfair-competition and false-advertising legal guidelines make such practices unlawful.
“Shoppers making purchases beneath these promotions don’t get a free product,” the lawsuit towards Safeway and its dad or mum agency Albertsons alleged. “As a substitute, they pay extra for the product and purchase extra of the product than they in any other case would to acquire the illusory ‘free’ product.”
Greater than 800,000 California consumers have been duped by the alleged scheme, the lawsuit claimed, and Haley, a Eureka-area resident, is in search of class-action standing to deliver them into the authorized motion.
Albertsons didn’t reply to requests for remark.
In response to the lawsuit, Haley purchased the ice cream in April. Between March and Might, Safeway additionally allegedly raised a lot of costs on BOGO offers. A package deal of Gorton’s frozen fish went from $8.99 to $11.99, whereas Peet’s Espresso went from $8.99 to $13.99, and Oreos cookies went from $4.99 to $6.79, the lawsuit claimed. Safeway additionally was accused of mountain climbing the worth of different ice lotions for a BOGO promotion, from $4 to $7.49 for Dreyer’s and from $5.99 to $7.49 for Häagen-Dazs.
The lawsuit additionally cites U.S. Federal Commerce Fee steerage that corporations providing free items ought to take “excessive care in order to keep away from any chance that buyers will probably be misled or deceived.”
The boosted pricing alleged within the lawsuit seems to contradict the company’s regulatory steerage, saying, “when the purchaser is informed that an article is ‘Free’ to him if one other article is bought, the phrase ‘Free’ signifies that he’s paying nothing for that article and not more than the common worth for the opposite.
“Thus, a purchaser has a proper to imagine that the service provider is not going to straight and instantly get better, in entire or partly, the price of the free merchandise or service by marking up the worth of the article which should be bought.”
The lawsuit goals to incorporate the estimated 800,000-plus Safeway prospects who used their membership within the grocer’s loyalty program to avail themselves of such promotions up to now 4 years.
Haley is in search of unspecified damages and a courtroom order barring Safeway from “inflating the costs of merchandise supplied on BOGO promotions above the common retail worth for these merchandise.”
Earlier this 12 months, Safeway agreed to pay $107 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in Oregon that made comparable claims about BOGO and “Purchase One Get Two Free” promotions for sure meat merchandise. Eligible customers have been to obtain as much as $200 every.
In 2014, Safeway agreed to pay greater than $2 million to settle a lawsuit by Marin County prosecutors alleging it charged customers greater than its lowest marketed costs, misrepresented the weights of Safeway-brand merchandise, and implied that some produce was domestically grown when it got here from overseas.
In September, the corporate agreed to pay $8 million after authorities accused it of breaking gasoline-leak prevention legal guidelines at its 71 California fuel stations, together with 18 within the Bay Space.