New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Reaches Settlement with AutoZone Addressing Allegations of Pricing Violations; Prior Actions Against "Advance Auto" and "Pep Boys" Remain Pending
NEWARK – AutoZone, Inc., the automotive parts retail chain, has agreed to revise its business practices, and to pay $47,500 to the State, after a joint investigation by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Office of Consumer Protection and the State Office of Weights and Measures revealed numerous merchandise pricing violations.
The investigation, undertaken early last year, found that seven AutoZone stores in Newark, Carteret, Elizabeth, Linden, Flemington, and Plainfield, failed to plainly mark the total selling price on some merchandise. Additionally, some merchandise scanned at the cash register reflected prices that were higher than the prices posted at the location in the store where the merchandise was displayed for sale.
“Consumers have a right to know the price of merchandise before they remove it from the shelves” said Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy. “Requiring consumers to wait until they are in a checkout line to discover the price deprives consumers of the opportunity to make an informed decision as to purchases and is in direct violation of our consumer protection laws.”
AutoZone entered into a Consent Order in which it agreed to conduct weekly merchandise price audits, create a pricing accuracy best business practices guide, provide annual pricing training for AutoZone’s New Jersey store managers, and employ a corporate pricing compliance coordinator to monitor AutoZone’s pricing accuracy in its New Jersey stores. AutoZone’s $47,500 payment consists of civil penalties, investigative costs and attorneys’ fees.
“AutoZone has agreed to implement internal oversights to ensure that merchandise is priced accurately,” said Steve Lee, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. “Consumers will directly benefit from such reforms and we expect continued cooperation with AutoZone and careful adherence to the terms of the Consent Order.”
AutoZone is the largest of five New Jersey automotive parts retailers to settle allegations of pricing violations in the past year. Office of Consumer Protection investigations into Genuine Parts Company in New Brunswick, Wilson Auto Parts in Newark, Big Ed’s Automotive in Colonia, and Stuyvesant Auto Parts in Union, found that the automotive parts retailers also failed to plainly mark the total selling price on merchandise offered for sale in their stores. Big Ed’s Automotive was additionally cited for not having its refund policy conspicuously posted for consumers to see. The Office of Consumer Protection settled its investigations with each of these retailers through Consent Orders in which these retailers agreed to not engage in any deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of their business, to comply with the Consumer Fraud Act, and to pay civil penalties ranging from $1,000 to $7,500, as well as the Division’s investigative costs.
“There is nothing more misleading to consumers than inaccurate price labeling,” added Acting Director Lee. “The Division’s actions send a clear message to retailers that they must take steps to ensure that merchandise offered for sale has a clearly marked price that matches the scanned price at checkout.”
In December, the Division of Consumer Affairs filed actions against two other automotive parts retailers: Advance Stores Company, Inc., d/b/a “Advance Auto,” and Pep Boys – Manny Moe & Jack of Delaware, Inc., d/b/a “Pep Boys.” The civil complaints, filed in Essex County Superior Court, include merchandise pricing and price scanning violations at several stores throughout New Jersey. These actions are currently pending. A
press release concerning these actions was issued on January 8, 2016.
Investigator Patrick Mullan in the Office of Consumer Protection and Enforcement Supervisor John McGuire in the Office of Weights and Measures conducted the AutoZone investigation and other investigations of automotive parts retailers.
Deputy Attorney General Russell M. Smith, Jr. in the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law is representing the State in the Auto Zone and other automotive parts retailing matters.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an
online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its
website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.
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