False Pricing or Overcharging
Consumers rely on the pricing shown in advertisements and displays to be true. Even when a business owner is diligent and properly trains employees to update the displays and shelves in the store, a customer may be overcharged for an item at the business. When the price advertised, posted, quoted, or displayed for an item is false, it creates distrust with consumers and hurts businesses and competition. It also violates the California Business & Professions Code, which makes it unlawful to charge a customer for an amount greater than the amount advertised, posted, marked, or quoted for that item and to charge a customer for an amount greater than the price posted on the item itself or on a shelf tag. (California Business & Professions Code § 12024.2(a).) This unlawful practice, commonly referred to as “false pricing” or “overcharging,” can have serious financial and criminal consequences.
The California Division of Measurement Standards as well as the weights and measures offices of Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and other counties in California enforce laws and regulations regarding, among other things, pricing accuracy. They must follow strict protocols when assessing price accuracy at the stores. For example, county inspectors may be required to purchase a certain number of items depending on the number of cash registers at the store, and a compliance rate greater than 98% may lead to no disciplinary action against the business. Yashdeep “Jesse” Singh, an experienced business litigation lawyer who is experienced in overcharging cases, can assist businesses with weight and measures matters.
An administrative proceeding can be initiated for overcharging. A criminal case can also be initiated against a business and an employee for overcharging in California Superior Court. The punishment that may be imposed in these types of proceedings for allegedly overcharging a customer will generally depend on the amount of the overcharge. In an administrative proceeding, the penalty against the business can range from $50 to $1,000. In a criminal proceeding, an overcharge over $1 is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine between $25 and $1,000 and/or imprisonment in the county jail for a period not exceeding one year. A misdemeanor can also lead to additional penalties or consequences with administrative agencies that has issued a license or certificate to the business. On the other hand, an overcharge under $1 is an infraction (think, traffic ticket) punishable by a fine of $100 or less. Infractions can also be expunged from a person’s record. Orange County business law litigation defense attorney Yashdeep “Jesse” Singh has successfully represented businesses and individuals in overcharging cases.
There are an increasing number of criminal cases for false pricing and overcharging being filed against convenience store owners and liquor store owners in Los Angeles County, Orange County, and other counties throughout Southern California. Storeowners need to exercise extreme caution that the prices shown in their advertisements, displays, and shelves in the store match the prices programmed into their point-of-sale system. Our business law firm has assisted clerks, liquor store owners, franchise convenient store owners, and other businesses in Downey, Bellflower, Compton, and other cities in Los Angeles County as well as throughout California when they were accused of false pricing or overcharging. Contact us today if you or your business is facing an administrative proceeding or criminal court case.