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Staples Agrees to Penalties for Inaccurate Prices

Marin County gets $210,477 as part of a settlement of nearly $1 million.

The company that owns Staples stores, including two in Marin, is nearly $1 million lighter in the pocketbook and will have to implement new price accuracy procedures in the wake of civil-law settlement with four Bay Area counties, including Marin.

Marin County District Attorney Edward S. Berberian announced Monday that his office and the district attorneys of Contra Costa, Sonoma and Napa counties reached a deal with Staples on Aug. 13 following a complaint filed in Marin County Superior Court. Each county agreed to $210,477 in compensation.

The allegation, brought forth after a routine inspection by county and state personnel, was that Staples violated California law by charging consumers more than the lowest posted or advertised price for items.

The terms of the settlement, approved by Superior Court Judge Roy Chernus, forces Staples to pay $968,157 in civil penalties, costs and restitution, and agreed to provisions that ensure compliance. Staples has to install new audit and price accuracy policy in all its California stores for five years.

California law requires businesses to ensure that their customers are charged the correct price for any item, Berberian said. 

"Our consumer unit has and will continue to work closely with the Marin County Department of Agriculture, Division of Weights and Measures to protect the consumers of this county and the state from these types of violations.”

The case arose from regular inspections by the California Department of Agriculture, Division of Measurement Standards, which coordinated its investigation with county Weights & Measures departments in each of the four  counties. Price scanner inspections disclosed numerous occasions when the price charged at the cash register was not the lowest posted or advertised price.

Staples entered into the settlement without any admission of wrongdoing, but Berberian said the company was cooperative during the investigation.

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