Dollar General Is Still Overcharging Shoppers—And Officials Just Filed a Restraining Order
The move is intended to pressure the discount chain to stop deceptive pricing.
It's been an intense couple of months for Dollar General, which has repeatedly made headlines for its pricing practices.
In Dec. 2022, 28 Dollar General stores in North Carolina were fined for overcharging customers due to price scanner errors, and a month before that, the Ohio Attorney General's Office (AGO) sued the discount chain after identifying price discrepancies in "multiple counties."
However, despite these penalties and the resulting bad press, officials report that Dollar General continues to charge more at the register than the prices listed on its shelves. Read on to learn more more about what Dollar General had to say about overcharging, and why a restraining order was filed.
Here's the backstory.
Ohio has been front and center in its dealings with Dollar General, with Attorney General Dave Yost initially calling the retailer out for "appalling behavior." The AGO's lawsuit alleges that Dollar General violates Ohio's Consumer Sales Practices Act by listing inaccurate prices in what it calls "bait advertising." The state is asking the retailer to pay damages to consumers and approximately $25,000 in civil fines for each violation. In addition, officials called for "court intervention to remedy the unjust situation for consumers and bring Dollar General into compliance with Ohio law."
In Dec. 2022, Franklin County Auditor Michael Stinziano tried a different tactic. Warning signs were stuck to Dollar General registers, letting shoppers know that the price scanners weren't approved by the Division of Weight and Measures.
"Consumers who buy products from stores with the nonsealed scanner notice are urged to check prices and make sure you pay the price listed on the store shelves," Stinziano said in a Dec. 13 press release. "Weights and Measures Inspectors will be following up with these stores and continue to be out in the community protecting consumers."
Stinziano told NBC-affiliate WCMH that, at the time, the county had yet to communicate with Dollar General corporate officials. "We are trying to find the proper contact, we are working with some liaisons—folks that represent Dollar General in the state of Ohio," he said. "But it has not been as smooth as desired."
But now, things are getting a bit more complicated than warning stickers.
Yost is continuing to "apply pressure."
On Wednesday, Jan. 11, Yost filed a temporary restraining order against Dollar General, according to a press release. The move is intended to "apply pressure" and force Dollar General to address price discrepancies—which the state says are usually higher at the register.
"There's a mountain of evidence showing that Dollar General simply doesn't care to fix the issue—and that's despite numerous consumer complaints, failed auditor inspections and our lawsuit," Yost said in the release. "The bait-and-switch price games stop now." According to WCMH, if a judge grants the temporary restraining order, Dollar General will have no choice but to match prices at the register to those on the shelf. It would be enforced for 14 days or until there's a preliminary injunction hearing.
"Without this court issuing a temporary restraining order to restrain Dollar General from charging prices at the register they are not advertising on the shelves or, in the alternative, from advertising prices on the shelves they are not charging at the register, the defendants will continue to engage in the practices described, thereby causing injury to additional Ohio consumers," Yost said in the motion, per Winsight Grocery Business.
Best Life reached out to Dollar General for comment on the motion, but has yet to hear back.
Dollar General called for the initial lawsuit to be dismissed.
Last week, Dollar General addressed the AGO's lawsuit for the first time, asking an Ohio judge to throw it out. The dollar store chain filed its motion to dismiss in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas on Jan. 6, calling the suit "vague, ambiguous and devoid of factual allegations," WCMH reported. Dollar General also claimed that the state has no proof of allegations.
Interestingly, Stinziano spoke with the WCMH about the ongoing issues with Dollar General three days later, and a spokesperson for his office confirmed that seven stores continue to fail inspections.
"It's just truly unprecedented to have so many failures—so much lack of desire of working together," Stinziano told the outlet on Jan. 9. "I know it's a point of frustration, not only for Franklin County. We want to be out testing other vendors, other stores, and making sure everyone is paying what they should be, and not just be focused on this one particular organization."
Dollar General isn't the only discount chain facing scrutiny in Ohio.
Less than a week after suing Dollar General in November, Yost announced plans to sue Family Dollar—a subsidiary of Dollar Tree—as well. Similar to the Dollar General suit, the AGO alleges that Family Dollar is violating Ohio's Consumer Sales Practices Act due to "bait and switch advertising."
"We're looking not just for reimbursement, but we want a court order to make them stop doing this and to put adequate controls in place so that the price you see on the shelf is the price that they charge at the register," Yost said in a video posted on YouTube. "I'm optimistic that we've got a good case and we're going to get justice."