A Portland woman is suing Walgreens, alleging a local store charged her 10 cents for each juice box and Yoo-hoo chocolate milk carton she bought—but refused to refund the money when she tried to redeem the containers.
Under the state's bottle bill, beverage distributors charge retailers a 10-cent fee for each small drink sold. Stores then pass that cost on to consumers who can bring empty bottles back to redemption stations to get their money back.
But some beverages are exempt. Anything that comes in a paper carton—juice, milk, some coconut waters—can't be redeemed. But several Walgreens locations in Portland allegedly have been charging a 10 cent bottle deposit anyway.
Heather Gilberto is the named plaintiff in a class action lawsuit filed Thursday against the national retail chain. Her lawyer says 39 other people have contacted his firm to sign on as plaintiffs in the case.
"Walgreens understands that the retail industry involves tight profit margins and high sales volumes," the lawsuit alleges. "Walgreens understands that it's profitable to collect 10-cent deposits on exempt beverages that its customers will never be able to exchange for a refund. Walgreens understands that Oregon law does not permit it to collect bottle deposits on exempt beverages but continues to overcharge its customers anyway."
Oregon's bottle bill was the first in the nation and intended to increase recycling by financially incentivizing people to bring plastic bottles and aluminum cans to redemption centers.
Michael Fuller, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the suit, says Walgreens may be liable for up to $200 per 10 cent charge. Those costs could add up fast.
It isn't the first time Walgreens has been in trouble for failing to follow the rules associated with a bottle bill. In New York City, people sued the company in 2015 after it refused to accept bottles for redemption, allegedly harassing and chasing people away from the Walgreen-owned Duane Reade stores.
In Oregon, Walgreens has already come under fire for failing to follow the state's bottle bill rules. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which enforces some aspects of the law, fined the company $80,000 last year because 25 locations did not operate redemption sites as required by state statute.
As recently as Friday afternoon, photos of receipts show local Walgreens were charging 10 cent bottle deposits for coconut water packaged in paper cartons.
"Walgreens's behavior as alleged in this complaint was reckless, in pursuit of profit, and constituted a wanton, outrageous and oppressive violation of the rights of Ms. Gilberto," the suit says.
A Walgreens spokesman could not immediately comment.