A lawsuit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court today alleges that the grocery store chain WinCo Foods engaged in false advertising by not disclosing the full price of non-grocery item subject to an additional tax in Portland.
The Portland Clean Energy Fund surcharge, passed by voters last year, places an extra 1 percent charge on the business license tax for companies with at least $500,000 in sales in Portland and a billion dollars nationally.
The money is expected to go to projects like solar panels and energy efficiency upgrades, particularly in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods.
WinCo has been adding the tax to receipts at the end, but not disclosing the price in marketing.
Companies are allowed to pass on the cost of the measure to consumers. But the lawsuit argues they should have to include that total price in its advertising.
"Defendant made false or misleading representations of fact concerning plaintiff and other class members' cost for its consumer goods by falsely telling plaintiff and other class members that its consumer goods could be purchased for a certain price," states the class action complaint filed by Rachel Miller, who shopped at the Southeast Powell WinCo.
"In fact defendant knew and should have known that defendant would add and collect from plaintiff and other class members a hidden surcharge in addition to the advertised price of its consumer goods," the complaint continues.
Miller apparently discovered the price discrepancy by reading her receipt, and finding the additional surcharge after she paid.
WinCo "added and collected a hidden nine cent surcharge in addition to the advertised price of its nongrocery consumer goods to plaintiff, causing plaintiff ascertainable loss of nine cents," the complaint states.
A representative of WinCo Foods did not return a call seeking comment.
"I'm personally disappointed that WinCo would engage in this type of false advertising," says lawyer Michael Fuller, who is representing Miller. "I generally like WinCo. I grew up shopping at WinCo in Hillsboro back when it was called Waremart. I hope WinCo will promptly refund the statutory penalties to each customer ripped off by its unlawful hidden charge."