Published On: Mon, Nov 14th, 2011

Starbucks Drops Bean Surcharge After Consumer-Protection Agency Fine

Unbeknownst to most, Starbucks Corp. has been adding a surcharge for bags of coffee beans that weigh less than a pound nationwide. The corporation refrained from adding the surcharge after the Massachusetts consumer-protection agency fined the company over the practice.

The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation found that Starbucks was not notifying customers of a surcharge of about $1.50 for bags of coffee beans weighing less than a pound. Thus, a half-pound bag of coffee beans, listed at $11.95 per pound, cost $7.45 a pound, as opposed to $5.98, or half the price.

According to Massachusetts law, the company is required to either post signs in the store to notify customers of the exact surcharge, or have employees tell them of the additional charge. Neither were done and the surcharge was not reflected on the receipt either.

“While Starbucks, and any retailer, is allowed to charge any additional fees it wants on a product, those additional fees have to be clearly and conspicuously disclosed to the consumer before the purchase,” said Barbara Anthony, undersecretary of consumer affairs, as reported by Kansascity.com.

Starbucks spokesman Alan Hilowitz told The Boston Globe, which first reported the fine and policy change, that the company charged extra for half-pound bags to cover “the additional labor and packaging needed to accommodate those customers’ unique request.”

“We are pleased to be able to now offer our customers alternative sizes of whole bean coffee in all of our U.S. stores, free of any service charge,” he said.

Customers were for the most part, completely unaware of the extra charge.

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