ST. LOUIS — Attorney General Chris Koster announced today he has filed a civil lawsuit against Walgreens in Jackson County, Mo., under Missouri Consumer Protection Laws dealing five areas: consumer price misrepresentation, making false promises, concealing, suppressing and omitting material facts, deceptive use of sale terminology and unfair merchandising practices.
Koster claims, after an investigation took place, Walgreens’ sale and clearance prices on the shelves are increased at the register. The differences between the sale price and the price at the register differed ranging from cents to $15.
Walgreens Balance Rewards Club members, Koster said, were also charged more than what the advertised rewards club prices stated. Consumer complaints prompted Koster’s office to look further into Walgreens pricing.
The nation-wide company could be fined $1,000 per violation if found guilty. Additionally, Missouri is one of several states to pursue civil suits against Walgreens, including
This evening, a Walgreen’s spokesperson sent the following statement:
“We have a 112-year history of acting in our customers’ best interests, and that will continue to be our focus. While we won’t comment on the complaint itself, we were disappointed and disagree with the attorney general’s comments. However, we are prepared to have a constructive dialogue about the issues he raised and address any appropriate concerns.”
Koster said he has requested an injunction against Walgreens to “stop these deceptive practices immediately and permanently.” He committed himself to solving the issue even if it takes the rest of his term.
“This has gotten under my skin,” Koster said. “Walgreens has now gotten on my to-do list. They are taking advantage of older citizens, of people who go in sick late at night and need their services and we are going to fix this problem. I am going to help them fix this problem if it takes me three and a half years to do it. If it means that we send investigators up and down these aisles for the next three and a half years that’s what we’re going to do.”
At least six investigators, according to Assistant Attorney General Kristin Underwood, conducted undercover shopping experiments at eight random stores in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Jefferson City and Osage Beach during June and July.
“Our findings were disturbing,” Koster said.
The investigation resulted in Walgreens overcharging the investigators nearly 20 percent of the total sales. That’s 43 overcharges out of 205 purchased products. The type of products varied, Koster said, and pharmaceuticals were not overcharged. Although the investigation hit five cities, Koster said he feels the problem is “likely occurring statewide.”
“This level of consumer deception is inexcusable from a corporation as sophisticated as Walgreens,” Koster said.
Missouri now joins California and Wisconsin filing similar suits against the company.
Koster said there’s been no contact Walgreens up until the press conference, which is not always typical of his office.
“Our practice has been to be a more circumspect office and to be somewhat respectful in the manner in which we engage in these discussions,” Koster said. “This practice struck us as so egregious that those practices did not seem necessary.”
Koster said he would advise Walgreens customers to be mindful of investigation results when shopping and to double and triple check prices at the shelves and the register.
Brittany Ruess was a reporter for The Missouri Times and the SEMO Times, and a graduate of Webster University.