New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Reaches Settlement with Advance Stores over Allegations of Pricing Violations
NEWARK – Advance Stores Company, Inc., an automotive parts and accessories retailer, will reform its business practices and make a settlement payment of more than $69,000 after a joint investigation by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Office of Consumer Protection (“OCP”) and the State Office of Weights and Measures (“OWM”) that discovered a number of pricing violations at seven of the company’s stores.
The stores, doing business as “Advance Auto Parts,” were found to have sold parts and accessories at prices in excess of the price listed at the point of display. Prices would be displayed for these items on the store shelves, but different prices would be charged when items were scanned at the register. Additionally, the stores also were found to have failed to post the total selling price of parts and accessories offered for sale.
In a Final Consent Judgment signed earlier this month, Advance Stores agreed to ensure the accuracy of its pricing both at point of display and at the register. In addition, Advance Stores will implement in its 69 Advance Auto Parts stores throughout New Jersey a monitoring program, in which the company will conduct regular audits of its pricing and keep a log of those audits. The company will also provide its general managers and other employees with training to ensure compliance with its pricing policies. Advance Stores will designate a corporate compliance coordinator to oversee the compliance program.
“Consumers should not have to worry whether the price advertised for merchandise is actually the price they pay,” said Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino. “Settlements such as this make it more likely that when consumers visit an auto parts store they will get what they pay for at the correct price.”
“It’s vital that we hold merchants accountable for the accuracy of the pricing in their stores,” said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “The Division is committed to taking action whenever necessary and sending a message that deceptive conduct will not be tolerated.”
The seven stores inspected were located in East Orange, Newark, Linden, East Brunswick, Bloomfield, Avenel and Fanwood, according to a civil Complaint filed by the Attorney General, the Director of the Division, and the Acting Superintendent of OWM in December 2015.
Investigators visited the Advance Stores between January 21 and February 23, 2015, and found that certain merchandise items were priced at as much as $4.84 over what was indicated on the item or at the point of display, according to the State’s Complaint.
Advance Stores also agreed to not engage in any unfair or deceptive business practices and not sell or offer any merchandise without the total selling price of the items plainly marked either on the items or where the item is located in the store.
The $69,607.89 settlement payment agreed to by Advance Stores includes $42,000 in civil penalties and $24,485.79 in attorneys’ fees and investigative costs.
The Consent Judgment reached with Advance Stores is the conclusion of an action brought as a result of the 2015 joint investigation by OCP and OWM. In March 2016, the Division settled its investigation with AutoZone Inc., which also agreed to revise its business practices after similar merchandise pricing violations were alleged. The State’s action against Pep Boys for similar violations is still pending.
OWM Inspectors John McGuire, Kathy Belknap, Veatrice Newton and Yocelin Tejada took part in the initiative. Also, OCP Investigators Patrick Mullan, Raquel Williams, and Donna Leslie took part in the initiative.
Deputy Attorney General Russell M. Smith Jr. in the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section of the Division of Law represented the State in this action.
Gregg A. Ilardi, Esq., represented Advance Stores Company.