Dollar General is paying Vermont $1.75 million to settle claims that it overcharged customers at its various stores in the state by advertising one price on the shelf and charging more at the register, state Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced Tuesday.
From October 2013 to January 2019 inspectors with the Agency of Agriculture found 362 violations at 22 Dollar General stores, violating Vermont's consumer protection law, Donovan said. The multibillion-dollar national chain continued to violate state law even after paying about $241,000 in administrative penalties to the state, he said.
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The violations are likely the tip of the iceberg, he said.
"We can assume that Dollar General mispresented the price of hundreds of thousands of products and consumers, Vermonters, were overcharged hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said, adding that Vermont stores advertise that they take Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, formally called Food Stamps, marketing themselves to low-income customers.
"Vermonters are going to buy food to feed their families, to take care of their kids, and this corporation was ripping them off," he said.
For that reason, $100,000 of the settlement is going to the Vermont Foodbank, for food sourcing and distribution to benefit Vermonters who struggle with food insecurity. The rest goes to the state.
"We can't identity every Vermonter who's overcharged by Dollar General and since we know that many low-income Vermonters buy their groceries at Dollar General this settlement will provide those Vermonters with free, healthy, and nutritious food to feed themselves and their families," he said.
Dollar General said it strives to provide accurate pricing and takes prompt action when a pricing anomaly is found.
"Although we do not necessarily agree with all of the statements made by the Vermont Attorney General's office, we have appreciated the constructive approach to resolving the matter," it said in a written statement.
Under the settlement, Dollar General must comply with Vermont law; adhere to a comprehensive compliance plan; hire new employees who will be responsible for ensuring accurate prices; train employees; and conduct internal audits to ensure accurate pricing and report failed audits to the attorney general's office, Donovan said.