By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) - Walgreen Co should be held in contempt and fined for its persistent failure to remove expired price tags from store shelves, a practice that deceives consumers, causes overcharges and violates a 2014 settlement, Missouri's attorney general said.
Attorney General Chris Koster on Tuesday filed papers in a Kansas City, Missouri state court seeking civil fines of up to $5,000 per tag against the Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc <WBA.O> unit, and additional penalties if the tags are not removed.
Koster said inspectors from his consumer protection unit found 1,306 expired tags at 49 of the 50 Walgreens stores they visited in Missouri from July 26 to Sept. 1, including two tags that expired in 2013.
He said this violated a June 2014 agreement and permanent injunction under which the largest U.S. drugstore chain, which is based in Deerfield, Illinois, agreed to remove stale tags within 12 hours of their expiration. That agreement also called for periodic, independent audits of Walgreen stores.
"Consumers should not have to dig through outdated and incorrect information to find out the true price of any item," Koster said in a statement.
Walgreen in a statement said the settlement was "in our customers' best interests," and that it will continue working with Koster to ensure pricing accuracy. "We are committed to continuing to earn our customers' trust and loyalty," it said.
The case is Missouri ex rel. Koster v Walgreen Co, Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, No. 1316-cv-21688.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)