Walgreens and the attorney general of Missouri have settled a lawsuit that accused the drugstore chain of deceptive pricing at many of its stores in the state.
The agreement, filed Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court, calls for independent audits of Walgreens’ prices at its Missouri stores and a Consumer Vigilance Award program that will give customers a gift card or free merchandise if they discover they were overcharged.
“I pledged I would crack down on overcharging at Walgreens stores in Missouri until the day I leave office,” said Attorney General Chris Koster in a statement.
The dispute surfaced in August, when Koster said an undercover investigation of eight Walgreens stores found products that failed to be sold at the stated prices. Among the problems cited were posted sales prices that had expired and bins of merchandise that were supposed to be part of a clearance sale that instead were sold at regular prices.
Koster said he was appalled. Walgreens said that it was disappointed but that it disagreed with his comments.
The drugstore company said Wednesday it was pleased to have an agreement that allows it to continue to operate “within our previously established business practices.”
“These practices are consistent with our 113-year history of acting in our customers’ best interests and ensuring their trust,” James Graham, a spokesman for the company, said in a statement.
The agreement calls for Walgreens to hire and pay an independent auditor who will be selected with the attorney general’s approval. The auditor will monitor Walgreens’ Missouri stores until June 2017. At least 25 percent of its Missouri stores will be audited each quarter for the next three years.
Auditors will check 100 product prices at each store to see if they match what is charged at the register. Each store needs a 98 percent accuracy rate to pass. If it doesn’t, there will be another audit the following month, and if it fails again, audits will continue until the 98 percent accuracy rate is achieved for three consecutive months.
Walgreens will pay a $1,500 penalty for each store that fails its first inspection, $3,000 for each that fails a second inspection and $5,000 for each that fails a third or subsequent inspection.
In addition, the Consumer Vigilance Award program will provide potential help to customers. If they’re overcharged for a product that costs less than $5, it will be free. A person who is overcharged for an item that costs more than $5 will receive a Walgreens gift card worth $10 and receive the item at the lowest advertised price.
To use the vigilance program, consumers can notify the clerk of the overcharge at the time they’re at the checkout counter. They also have 48 hours to show the receipt with the overcharge to an employee at the store where the product was purchased.
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