Mo. AG Announces Investigation, Legal Action Against Walgreens

Published in CSP Daily News

Alleges pattern of deceptive pricing at locations in five cities

Chris Koster

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a civil lawsuit against Walgreen Co. for engaging in false, misleading and deceptive advertising and pricing schemes to lure consumers into purchasing certain products. The complaint, a result of a two-month investigation by the AG's Office, alleges that Walgreens engaged in a pattern of advertising lower prices on display tags, but charging higher prices at the checkout.

The AG's Office made undercover visits to eight random Walgreens stores in five cities across Missouri in June and July, where investigators purchased various items. Investigators discovered that nearly every store visited had pricing discrepancies in which the price of merchandise at checkout was greater than the displayed price for the product. Overall, investigators found 43 price discrepancies out of 205 purchased products, resulting in overcharges nearly 21% of the time.

According to the complaint filed earlier this week in the Jackson County Circuit Court, Walgreens also offered a rewards membership program promising price reductions or savings at the register, but investigators did not always receive the savings as advertised. In addition, investigators found that sale display tags were often inaccurate and left on shelves beyond their expiration date.

Investigators from the AG's Office visited Walgreens locations in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Jefferson City and Osage Beach.

"Consumers have a right to expect the price they will pay at the register is the same as the price displayed on the shelf," Koster said. "The sheer volume of tags on the shelves makes it nearly impossible to recall the details of each offer. Consumers should not have to double-check the price tags or signage and compare them to the prices charged at the register."

For the alleged unlawful conduct, Koster's lawsuit seeks an injunction prohibiting Walgreens from engaging in deceptive pricing, as well as civil penalties and reimbursement for the cost of the investigation and prosecution.

As the nation's largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2012 sales of $72 billion, Walgreens provides more than six million customers with convenient, multichannel access to consumer goods and services and pharmacy, health and wellness services and advice in communities across America. The company operates 8,105 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.