Price Chopper will pay a penalty of $100,000 because of unclear advertising of its double coupon policy, the state Attorney General’s Office said on Tuesday.
Advertisements from May 2011 until May 2012 didn’t clearly disclose restrictions on the company’s double coupon policy, according to an assurance of discontinuance agreement between state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office and Price Chopper. Schneiderman’s office said the lack of full and obvious disclosure led some consumers to believe that all coupons, including $1 coupons, would be eligible to be doubled.
This practice was a violation of the state’s General Business Law and Executive Law, according the agreement.
All of the advertisements without the proper disclosure, which were cited in the agreement, ran in two central New York newspapers.
The agreement was announced by Schneiderman’s office in a news release on Tuesday morning. The release accused Price Chopper of using “misleading” and “deceptive” business practices.
The release drew a sharp rebuke from Price Chopper spokeswoman Mona Golub, who said it didn’t reflect the realities of the agreement between the two sides. She argued that the release from Schneiderman implied an intent by Price Chopper to mislead and be deceptive.
“In fact, contrary to the press release, the [agreement] makes no assertion that Price Chopper acted intentionally to harm consumers or that its practices caused any losses, let alone millions of lost savings to its customers,” she said in a news release. “We’ve been in direct contact with the [state Attorney General’s Office] to express our concerns and are awaiting their response.”
“Our decision to sign this agreement was reached after considering the likely cost of alternative actions, and because settling the matter will allow us to focus on serving our customers, including offering double coupons up to $.99 in all 130 of our stores,” Golub added.
Price Chopper’s coupon policy currently can be found on its store website, where it says double and triple coupons can be applied to manufacturer coupons with a face value of up to 99 cents.
This corporate policy is the policy at all stores, but before June 2011, Price Chopper didn’t have a uniform policy on double coupons. There were at least four different coupon policies.
Stores in Granville, Plattsburgh, Champlain and Malone honored coupons of $1 as part of its double promotion before June 2011. The variety of options was based on the surrounding competition. This is not unique, as ShopRite advertises that its double coupon policy varies by store.
As a result of the agreement between Price Chopper and the state, the company will clearly disclose any restrictions of its coupon policy, will not advertise restrictions in small print or footnotes, and ensure that store policies are the same as corporate policies, Schneiderman’s office said.
The entire assurance of discontinuance agreement can be found on the Capital Region Scene at www.dailygazette.com.