County of Marin - Press Releases - Safeway Settlement

For Immediate Release
March 06, 2014

Marin, 8 Other Counties Split $2.25M Settlement

Safeway engaged in false advertising and unfair competition, judge rules

San Rafael, CA – Safeway Inc., the second largest food and drug retailer in North America, has agreed to pay $2.25 million to settle a civil law enforcement action alleging that it engaged in false advertising and unfair competition as well as violated a 2008 injunction. Marin County and eight other California counties were awarded equal portions of the settlement that covers civil penalties, investigative costs and restitution.

"The Marin County District Attorney's Office remains committed to prosecuting pricing accuracy violations and ensuring consumers pay no more for items then advertised,” District Attorney Ed Berberian said.

The action was filed in Marin County Superior Court by the Consumer Protection Unit of the Marin County District Attorney’s Office along with the district attorneys of Alameda, Fresno, Napa, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma and Ventura counties. Marin County Deputy District Attorney Andres H. Perez prosecuted the case and the judgment was signed by Marin Superior Court Judge Roy O. Chernus. 

The complaint alleged that within at least the past four years Safeway unlawfully charged consumers prices higher than the company’s lowest-advertised price, misrepresented the weight of Safeway-branded products and made false statements on in-store signage that conveyed the impression certain Safeway foreign-grown produce was locally grown. 

The complaint further alleged that Safeway failed to abide by provisions of a 2008 injunction requiring it to initiate and maintain a program to minimize pricing discrepancies. The injunction mandated that Safeway institute a price-accuracy policy to give consumers a free item if they are overcharged for the item and the lowest advertised price was $5 or less; or charge the correct price if it was more than $5 and give the consumer a $5 gift card. The complaint alleged that Safeway failed to consistently honor the requirement and adequately notify consumers of the requirement with signage at every checkstand.         

Under the settlement, Safeway agreed to be bound by a permanent injunction prohibiting it from:

  • making false or misleading statements
  • charging an amount greater than the lowest price posted on a commodity or on a shelf tag
  • failing to honor any valid Safeway coupons, discounts or offers
  • failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose any inclusions, exceptions or limitations to any Safeway offers, coupons or discounts.

Safeway has agreed to take significant measures to increase price accuracy including, but not limited to:

  • increasing the number and visibility of store signage notifying consumers of the price accuracy policy
  • instituting training for employees on complying with the price accuracy policy
  • hiring an independent third-party auditor to conduct annual audits of Safeway's compliance with the injunction provisions.


Ed Berberian
District Attorney
County of Marin

Marin County Civic Center
3501 Civic Center Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6450


Email: Ed Berberian