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Whole Foods Being Investigated For Overcharging Customers

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Whole fraud? A popular upscale grocery store chain is being investigated for overcharging customers. Whole Foods is accused of overstating the weight of some of its products.

Jessica Kartalija explains.

Whole Foods is known for its organic and wholesome products, but in New York City, the Department of Consumer Affairs says customers are paying more for less in one of the worst cases of overcharging they've ever seen.

"We're not just talking about a few violations, we're talking about what literally amounts to thousands of violations over numerous stores throughout the New York City area," said Julie Menin, commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.

Inspectors checked out 80 different pre-packaged products at Whole Foods and found that all of them had misrepresented labels, which resulted in up-charges for customers.

An inspection of chicken tenders found customers would have overpaid by more than $4. Markups ranged from 80 cents for a package of pecan panko to a nearly $15 overcharge for coconut shrimp.

"I have probably spent $10,000 to $20,000 over the last few years, and to not be getting the quality and quantity, that's just really is disheartening," said shopper Bethany Snodgrass.

Whole Foods calls the allegations an overreach.

"Occasionally, there will be human error. But there's no systematic to overcharge or up-charge customers," said John Hempfling, chief litigation counsel, Whole Foods Market.

The company says it's tried to address concerns, walking officials through its auditing and training programs.

"We're not going to be coerced into paying outrageous demands and we're not going to be coerced by them coming out into the press and making these issues public when they're not accurate issues in the first place," said Hempfling.

This isn't the first time Whole Foods is accused of cheating customers.

"If a customer at any point goes to a cashier and believes they have a wrong label or an incorrect price, they can simply ask the cashier," said Hempfling. "And if it's a mistake, we'll refund the money. We will make it right with the customer."

"The bottom line is it's not the consumer's responsibility to do this legwork. It is always on the employer to do the right thing," said Menin.

The move comes a year after Whole Foods was forced to pay $800,000 for overcharging in California.

The company has nine locations here in Maryland.

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