AG Platkin: Walmart Agrees to Pay $1.64 Million Settlement to Resolve Allegations of Unlawful Pricing Practices at Retail Stores Statewide

Record Settlement for NJ Office of Weights & Measures Includes $1.61 Million Civil Penalty

For Immediate Release: June 18, 2024

Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
Division of Consumer Affairs
– Cari Fais, Acting Director
Division of Law
– Michael T.G. Long, Director

For Further Information:

Media Inquiries-
Lisa Coryell
OAGpress@njoag.gov

Consent Order

 TRENTON — Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division of Consumer Affairs (“Division”) announced today that international retailer Walmart has agreed to pay $1.64 million to resolve allegations that the chain repeatedly engaged in unlawful unit pricing practices at its 64 retail stores throughout the state. The settlement, which includes a $1.61 million civil penalty, is the largest ever obtained by the Division’s Office of Weights and Measures (“OWM”).

According to the allegations, the international retailer violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) and Unit Pricing Disclosure Act (“UPDA”) by using inaccurate unit pricing for a variety of grocery products sold in the chain’s New Jersey locations.

The UPDA requires grocery retailers to display the price of food, cleaning products, coffee, cereal, and other regulated commodities using a standard unit of measurement set by regulation – such as quart, pound, or per 100 sheets. Unit pricing makes it easier for consumers to compare prices among like products packaged in different sizes or quantities to determine which is the best value for their money.

New Jersey is one of nine states nationwide with mandatory unit pricing laws in force. The other states are Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

During the first three months of 2023, OWM conducted pricing inspections of Walmart stores throughout the state and found more than 2,000 instances where the incorrect unit of measurement was used. In addition to using incorrect units of measurement, various units of measurement were often used within the same category of merchandise—such as using per can, per pound, or per 100-count for coffee—making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for shoppers to compare prices.

“As the price of grocery items continues to rise, it’s more important than ever to ensure consumers have all the information they need—and are entitled to by law—to make educated decisions on how to spend their money,” said Attorney General Platkin.  “The significant fine Walmart will pay as a result of this settlement sends a clear message that New Jersey will not allow retailers to engage in unlawful pricing practices that deny shoppers the ability to easily compare prices to figure out which product is a better buy.”

The allegations resolved by the settlement reflect an ongoing pattern of pricing violations at Walmart stores in New Jersey. Prior OWM inspections of Walmart stores statewide in 2021 and 2022 have led to a total of $226,950 in assessed fines against the retailer for unit pricing violations.

“We’re putting chain retailers on notice that repeatedly violating New Jersey’s pricing laws will not result in fines they can easily absorb as the cost of doing business,” said Cari Fais, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “To protect our consumers, we are pursuing significant penalties that hold companies accountable for financial harm they inflict on consumers and deter them from future unlawful conduct.”

This is the second time in less than a year that a chain retailer has agreed to pay the Division a seven-figure settlement to resolve allegations of chronic, widespread pricing violations. In November 2023, Dollar General Corp. agreed to a $1.2 million settlement resolving allegations stemming from OWM inspections identifying thousands of items that scanned for higher prices at the cash register than were posted where the merchandise was displayed for sale. The settlement included a $1.18 million civil penalty that, until today, was the highest ever obtained by OWM.

In addition to paying a $1,616,091 civil penalty and reimbursing the Division $25,409 for investigative costs and attorney’s fees, the settlement requires Walmart to make changes to its business practices to prevent future violations.

Those changes, contained in a Consent Order filed with the Division today, require Walmart to:

  • comply with all applicable state and federal laws and not engage in any unconscionable business practices or pricing violations as prohibited by the CFA, the Unit Pricing Disclosure Act, and the Unit Pricing Regulations;
  • use the approved unit of measure for every regulated commodity sold or advertised;
  • within 90 days of the settlement, incorporate training regarding Walmart’s obligation to comply with New Jersey’s unit pricing laws and regulations into the onboarding process for all new employees working in New Jersey Walmart stores who have pricing responsibilities;
  • conduct internal audits for a period of three years, such that each New Jersey Walmart store is audited at least once a year. The internal audits will include the random sampling of 100 regulated items, and an audit revealing errors in more than 2% of the products sampled at any one store shall constitute a failed audit;
  • semi-annually submit to the Division a corrective action plan for failed audits during the preceding six-month period, along with a summary of likely reasons and efforts to prevent future unit pricing errors;
  • submit the first corrective action plan to the Division no later than one year after the effective date of the settlement; and
  • retain all reports and records of every internal audit for a period of three years and provide them to the Division upon request.

The inspections were conducted by Investigators Joseph Singh, Michelle Szatkowski, Aniyah Brooks, and Shianne Vieira, within OWM’s Pricing Section, under the supervision of Chief Investigator Kelly Fairclough and Acting Superintendent David Freed.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Kozier, under the supervision of Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section Chief Jesse Sierant within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group, represented the State in this matter.

Consumers who believe that a business is in violation of New Jersey’s consumer protection or pricing laws are encouraged to file an online complaint. Consumers can also call 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.

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The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs, within the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation, and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee approximately 750,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as through its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section.

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