Wal-Mart Reaches Deal With New York Over Coca-Cola Ads

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. charged New York customers higher prices for Coca-Cola products than stated in national circulars, running afoul of false advertising laws, according to the state attorney general.

The world’s biggest retailer charged $3.50 in New York stores for 12-packs of the soft drinks instead of $3.00 as advertised during promotions this year, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement yesterday. In one instance, store staff falsely told a customer who complained that the extra charge came from a “sugar tax,” Schneiderman said.

“There has to be one set of rules for everyone, no matter how rich or how powerful, and that is why our office must ensure that even the largest corporations cannot advertise one price and then charge a higher one to New Yorkers,” Schneiderman said.

Under an agreement announced yesterday, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer will pay a $66,000 penalty and improve practices to avert over-charging. The attorney general’s office determined that cash registers weren’t programmed to recognize the advertised price. Wal-Mart didn’t admit or deny the attorney general’s findings, according to the agreement.

New York law generally prohibits deceptive advertising, including ads displaying false or misleading prices. Earlier this year, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. agreed to a $220,000 settlement with the state attorney general to resolve claims of deceptively advertising prices by making it appear as though consumers were receiving steep discounts.

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