Updated Wednesday morning
State attorney general Eric Schneiderman announced today that his office reached an agreement with Price Chopper over an investigation into what the AG's office says was "deceptive" advertising of the chain's double coupon policy. From the press release:
After implementing a corporate-wide policy that limited the doubling of coupons "up to 99 cents," Price Chopper failed to disclose this restriction in its advertisements leading consumers to believe that $1.00 coupons would be doubled. Prior to this corporate policy, Price Chopper's double coupon policies had previously varied from store to store. A number of stores doubled coupons up to $1.00 whereas others restricted the face value of coupons that could be doubled.
Coupons draw consumers into stores with valuable offers, leading to the purchase of other goods. Restrictions on double coupons, which can make a significant difference in savings, must be clear to consumers who shop on a budget. In just April and May of 2012, Price Chopper shoppers redeemed 34,616,602 coupons valued at $.99 or greater; approximately 8 million of these were valued at $1.00 or more.
The AG's office says that as part of the agreement, Price Chopper is "required to clearly and conspicuously disclose any face value limits on coupon redemption." It will also pay the state $100,000 in penalties and costs.
Price Chopper response
Price Chopper released a response to the AG's announcement Tuesday afternoon, disputing the way the agreement was described:
We were appalled and disappointed by the inflammatory press release distributed earlier today by the New York State Office of the Attorney General (OAG), as its portrayal of Price Chopper's conduct is false, misleading and inaccurate in significant respects, and is not supported by the Assurance of Discontinuance (AOD) to which Price Chopper agreed. In fact, contrary to the Press Release, the AOD makes no assertion that Price Chopper acted intentionally to harm consumers or that its practices caused any losses, let alone millions of lost savings to its customers. We've been in direct contact with the OAG to express our concerns and are awaiting their response.
What the OAG actually asserts in the AOD is that Price Chopper inconsistently denoted in its advertising the dollar value limit of its double coupon policy during select weeks in June 2011, January 2012 and April 2012 in Syracuse and Cortland, NY. Our decision to sign this agreement was reached after considering the likely cost of alternative actions, and because settling the matter will allow us to focus on serving our customers, including offering double coupons up to $.99 in all 130 of our stores.
Update: Here's the "assurance of discontinuation" from the state AG's office, as posted by the Syracuse Post-Standard. It makes the AG's office's issues with Price Chopper a bit more clear. The bulk of its complaint is an allegation that Price Chopper didn't note double coupon restrictions in some of its print ads, and that the policies posted at some stores differed from what was posted on the company's website.
By the way: Here are Price Chopper's coupon policies, as listed on its website. After the jump, links to the coupon policies for other supermarkets in the Capital Region...
+ ShopRite ("Double coupon policies vary by store.")
+ Hannaford ("We do not double or triple coupons.")
+ Trader Joe's ("No coupons, no membership cards, no discounts. You won't find any glitzy promotions or couponing wars at our stores.")
+ Aldi ("Our select brand assortment eliminates the issue of manufacturers' coupons.")
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