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Whole Foods probed for overcharging by N.Y. consumer watchdog

New York City's consumer agency says Whole Foods supermarkets have been routinely overcharging customers by overstating the weight of prepackaged items.

Consumer agency alleges company routinely mislabels weights on prepackaged goods

An employee at Whole Foods stocks apples in the produce section. The eco-minded chain has been accused of overcharging customers by mislabelling weights on prepackaged goods. (Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

New York City's consumer regulator says Whole Foods supermarkets have been routinely overcharging customers by overstating the weight of prepackaged items.

The city's Department of Consumer Affairs said it found mislabelled weights on every single one of 80 different types of prepackaged products. It said the overcharges ranged from 80 cents for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 too much for coconut shrimp.

The watchdog suggested that many Whole Foods packages were never weighed at all. They said in some cases, every package of a product was labelled with exactly the same weight. They say that would be nearly impossible with foods such as vegetables and seafood.

Last year, Whole Foods agreed to pay $800,000 in penalties — and improve pricing accuracy — after an investigation into alleged pricing irregularities in California.

Whole Foods has long battled a reputation for high prices — some derisively call the store "Whole Paycheck" — and it recently announced plans for a new chain of smaller stores with lower prices.

The company has 422 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Whole Foods "never intentionally used deceptive practices to incorrectly charge customers" a spokesman for the Texas-based chain said in a statement, adding the chain will "vigorously defend" itself.

With files from The Associated Press

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