Safeway has agreed to pay $2,250,000 and litigation costs to settle a lawsuit by Marin County prosecutors alleging false advertising and unfair competition, the district attorney announced Thursday.
The litigation also alleged that Safeway violated a 2008 injunction over alleged pricing discrepancies, said Marin County District Attorney Edward Berberian.
"The Marin County District Attorney's Office remains committed to prosecuting pricing accuracy violations and ensuring consumers pay no more for items then advertised," Berberian said in a statement released by his office.
The Marin office filed the civil enforcement action jointly with the district attorney's offices of Alameda, Fresno, Napa, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma and Ventura counties. The offices will share the settlement money, which will fund their consumer protection units.
Safeway, in a statement, said the grocery chain "has one of the best price accuracy rates in the nation, something we are very proud of."
"This settlement came about because of our inconsistency in communicating and applying our scan guarantee to our customers," the Pleasanton-based company said. "It is not about excessive overcharges or price accuracy issues."
The lawsuit alleged that Safeway charged consumers more than the lowest advertised prices, misrepresented the weights of Safeway brand products and implied that some produce was "locally grown" when it had come from out of the country.
The complaint also alleged that Safeway failed to abide by a 2008 injunction requiring it to minimize price discrepancies by offering customers free items or $5 gift cards when pricing flaws occurred.
In its statement, Safeway said it would "take additional steps to make our scan guarantee policy more visible to our customers and well-understood by our employees."
"Safeway has long had a strict set of policies and procedures in place to minimize errors," the corporation said. "The company will continue to audit its stores, with help from a third party. Employees will be asked to verify that they are following our programs and standards."
Safeway, based in Pleasanton, has eight Marin stores in Corte Madera, Mill Valley, Novato, San Anselmo and San Rafael.
Marin prosecutors announced the settlement the same day as reports that Safeway would be acquired by Cerberus Capital Management, the investment group that owns Albertsons and other supermarket chains, in a $9 billion deal.
©2014 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)
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