Target will pay $5 million in civil penalties to settle a lawsuit that alleged the retail giant overcharged customers and misled them about prices featured on its mobile app.
According to a news release from the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday, District Attorney Jill Ravitch said that Target will pay $5,372,681 to settle a civil complaint that alleged the store engaged in false advertising and unfair competition.
“We are committed to prosecuting pricing accuracy violations and ensuring that businesses charge customers accurately and in compliance with California law,” Ravitch said in a statement. “Consumers should always watch as items are scanned at the register and check receipts to verify that they are charged the lowest advertised or posted price for items.”
The district attorney’s office, along with prosecutors from Alameda, Marin, Contra Costa, Santa Cruz, Ventura, and San Diego counties, accused Target of duping customers into paying prices higher than the store’s lowest advertised price, The Sacramento Bee reported. Prosecutors also accused the company of hiking the prices of some items in Target’s mobile app when a shopper entered the store, according to the news release.
Prosecutors also alleged that if an item was differently priced on the app than in the store, customers were not told where they could purchase it for the advertised amount, The Bee reported.
“With this latest lawsuit, we’re continuing to protect consumers and their hard-earned money, as well as ensuring that Target is held responsible when it violates the law,’’ San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement, according to KABC-TV.
Target will be required to implement audit and price accuracy procedures in its California stores for a seven-year period to “ensure compliance with pricing accuracy requirements,” according to the Sonoma County news release.
Target will be required to pay $5 million in civil penalties, $200,000 in “cy pres” restitution — which means “as near as possible” — to support future enforcement of consumer protection laws, the release stated. Target also must pay $173,618.81 in costs to the several county Departments of Agriculture in California that conducted the investigation.
Minneapolis-based Target, which cooperated during the investigation, has since instituted new policies and procedures to improve pricing accuracy, the release stated.
“We’ve taken steps to improve our processes because the majority of these issues occurred when promotional signs were not removed immediately after a promotion ended,” Target spokesperson Brian Harper-Tibaldo said in a statement. “If guests have questions, they can bring their receipt to the Guest Service desk to discuss a price adjustment.”