By SDCN Editor
San Diego, CA–Target Corporation has entered into a stipulated judgment and will pay $5,000,000 in civil penalties to settle a civil law enforcement complaint that alleged that the retailer engaged in false advertising and unfair competition, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said Thursday.
The judgment also requires restitution in the amount of $100,000 to the Consumer Protection Prosecution Trust Fund and $100,000 to the California Agricultural Commissioner and Sealers Association, as well as payment to the various Weights and Measures departments of their investigative costs totaling more than $173,000. The action was filed in Sonoma County Superior Court by the District Attorneys of Alameda, Marin, Contra Costa, Fresno, Santa Cruz, Ventura, and San Diego.
“With this latest lawsuit, we’re continuing to protect consumers and their hard-earned money, as well as ensuring that Target is held responsible when it violates the law,” said DA Stephan. “This isn’t the first time we’ve joined with other district attorneys in the state to make sure this corporation is held accountable.”
In 2018, the DA’s Office announced a $7.4 million statewide settlement with Target over allegations that Target violated state laws and injunctive terms from a 2011 stipulated judgment regarding the company’s handling and disposal of retail hazardous waste.
The most recent complaint filed by prosecutors alleged that Target unlawfully charged customers prices higher than Target’s lowest advertised price for items. The complaint also alleged that prices advertised on the Target mobile app changed for some items when the customer entered the perimeter of a Target store, and that the Target app also advertised the price of certain items that were concurrently available for purchase in-store at a different price without clearly disclosing to its customers where the item could be purchased for the advertised price – online or in-store.
The judgment includes a permanent injunction that prohibits Target from engaging in false or misleading advertising and charging an amount greater than the lowest price posted for an item. The judgment also prohibits Target from using app-related technology in a manner that causes the price of an item advertised on the app for online purchase to increase based solely on the user’s geographic location and further provides that Target will clearly and conspicuously disclose where a customer can obtain the item at the price advertised on the app – online or in-store – where the online and in-store price differs.
Additionally, the judgment further requires Target to implement additional audit and price accuracy procedures in its California stores for a seven-year period after this judgment to ensure compliance with pricing accuracy requirements, including notifying the public about their Price Accuracy Program. Target cooperated with inspectors and prosecutors during the investigation and has since instituted new policies and procedures to improve pricing accuracy.
The San Diego County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures Division, is the agency that inspected Target stores in San Diego County and is instrumental in monitoring retailers to make sure that consumers are being charged the lowest advertised price for items.
Deputy District Attorney Stephen Spinella and Special Prosecutor Kathryn Turner of the Consumer Protection Division handled the case for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.