The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation claims Starbucks has been secretly charging a $1.50 fee on bagged coffee nationwide when consumers purchased less than one pound.
The state agency determined that when consumers bought a one-pound bag of coffee broken into small sizes by Starbucks employees, they were charged a $1.50 fee.
A consumer buying a half pound of coffee marked as $11.95 a pound would end paying $7.30, instead of $5.80. The fee was not posted in the stores, and the fee was not identified on the receipt.
Massachusetts claims approximately 75,000 consumers were charged the extra fee. After the Office of Consumer Affairs alerted Starbucks to the scam, the company agreed to end the fee in Massachusetts and across the country.
“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, the Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.
“We are pleased that Starbucks has decided to drop this fee, ending any confusion for consumers buying coffee in their stores.”
After becoming aware of the fee scam in August, the Office of Consumer Affairs determined that the Starbucks in 8 Massachusetts cities — Auburn, Boston, Brookline, Chestnut Hill, Chicopee, Dedham, Framingham and Holyoke — had the fee in place at each outlet.
Consumer Affairs claims that in each case, a shopper asked for less than one pound of coffee, and in each case the $1.50 fee was not posted at the store or announced by store staff, but was included on the final receipt.
Massachusetts inspected five stores in Andover, Bedford, Reading, Concord and Burlington. The state’s compliance office purchased a half-pound of coffee at each location, and each time the additional fee was not disclosed before payment.
The Consumer Affairs Division of Standards fined the stores a total of $1,575.
In 2009, a million customers who purchased coffee at a Starbucks location over the Memorial Day weekend using a credit or debit card were overcharged double the price of their coffee drinks. The double charges affected patrons at 7,000 stores around the country.
The customer receipts showed the correct amount paid, but the double charges were added at the end of the day during the back end of the transaction.