Customers sue Fred Meyer for charging 10-cent deposit on containers that can’t be returned

Customers are suing Fred Meyer and its parent company Kroger after they say the store charged them 10-cent deposits on containers that can't be returned for a refund. (Photo included in lawsuit )

PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU) – In a new class-action lawsuit, customers say Fred Meyer stores around Oregon are ripping them off, charging a 10-cent deposit on containers that can’t be returned for a refund.

The lawsuit, with four plaintiffs, was filed last week in the U.S. District Court in Oregon. They are calling for $200 in damages.

The lawsuit alleges, "In July and August 2018, each plaintiff purchased an exempt beverage from Fred Meyer, and Fred Meyer collected a 10-cent deposit charge from them for each exempt beverage container. Fred Meyer did not disclose its 10-cent deposit charge in the advertisement of the exempt beverage prices to plaintiffs."

Michael Fuller, known as the Underdog Lawyer, is representing the customers. He says the initial complaints came from customers in the Salem area. They sent a private investigator to check stores around Oregon. According to the lawsuit, Fred Meyer locations in Forest Grove, Tualatin, Tigard, Wilsonville, Keizer, Salem, Albany, Springfield, and Eugene all charged for a deposit when they shouldn't have.

Under Oregon’s bottle bill, stores can charge customers an extra 10 cents for glass, metal or plastic bottles and cans that can be returned for a refund. Cartons, juice boxes, and foil pouches are exempt.

"It's not that much, in the grand scheme of things, but that's why we have consumer protection laws. It doesn't make sense to go to court over a ten cent charge. But when you add it all together, that's tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of extra profits that Fred Meyer gets over its competitors that choose to follow the rules," said Fuller.

The lawsuit, filed on August 13, includes one example from a store in Salem. Plaintiff, Paul Ruggles, purchased a carton of orange juice, but the receipt shows a ten-cent bottle deposit charge.

The suit accuses Fred Meyer of violating Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act.

"When our clients went to ask a refund in person, they were basically told to pound sand, so now we filed a class action," said Fuller.

Fuller says Fred Meyer stores were overcharging as recently as August 13. A KATU News employee went to the Wilsonville location on Monday to purchase the same carton or orange juice and he was not charged extra for the bottle deposit.

Fred Meyer would not comment on the lawsuit, but a spokesperson released the following statement:

“Fred Meyer has always been committed to our customers’ shopping experience. If we ever discover we have made an error we take immediate corrective action. We will continue to be the trusted community partner that Oregon residents have come to rely upon for the past 96 years.”

Customers KATU spoke with had different reactions.

"That information needs to be disclosed. If they're doing that, consumers need to know about that," said Joe Turco, who goes to the Wilsonville store. "I'd expect if you bring something to customers service, that they would at least take an opportunity to take a look at the problem, resolve it, and give a refund for that."

"I can't see them doing something like that intentionally. I think it's an honest mistake, and slipped through the cracks somehow," said Jack Cain, another customer.

Fred Meyer is not alone. Fuller is part of a similar class-action suit against Walgreens which was filed one day after the Fred Meyer suit.

The Walgreens lawsuit alleges Portland-area stores charged for bottle deposits on juice boxes. Walgreens did not provide a statement to KATU.

Oregon Fred Meyer customers who were assessed a 10-cent bottle deposit charge on an exempt beverage in the past year can learn more about their legal options at FredMeyerCustomers.com.

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