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Lawsuit Claims Walgreens Wrongfully Taxed Customers for Unsweetened Drinks
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Summary: A new lawsuit claims Walgreens unjustly enriched itself by taxing unsweetened drinks.

In Cook County, Illinois, stores must charge consumers a tax on sweetened beverages such as Coca-Cola or Pepsi, and the local initiative has been called a “pop tax” by consumers. Although the tax is fairly new, it has already been met with pushback, including a new lawsuit filed on Monday that said Walgreens has been wrongfully taxing unsweetened drinks, The Chicago Sun Times said.


The unsweetened drinks class action lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court by lead plaintiff Vince De Leon. He said that Walgreens violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and was unjustly enriched by taxing unsweet drinks.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who created the tax, said on Twitter that only sweet drinks were subject and warned consumers of stores that said otherwise.

“Unsweetened sparkling water, like LaCroix, is NOT subject to the sweetened beverage tax. Don’t believe otherwise,” Preckwinkle tweeted.

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On August 2, Cook County passed the Sweetened Beverage Tax Ordinance, which adds one penny per ounce to sugary drinks such as sodas and sweet iced teas. It does not apply to naturally sweet drinks such as juice nor does it apply to flavored water or water bottles.

De Leon said that he was charged the new tax on a case of Dasani Tropical Pineapple Sparkling Water at a Walgreens in a Chicago suburb. The case was labeled “unsweetened,” according to the lawsuit, and De Leon said that he was unaware that the item should not have been taxed until after his August 4th purchase.

The class action suit listed other similar occurrences that De Leon said were deceptive, including a Chicago store that charged tax on a bottle of Lipton Pure Leaf Unsweetened Green Tea.

Earliest this month, DNA Info reported that fans of LaCroix were outraged that Walgreens had charged them the pop tax on the sparkling water drink, and a report showed that Walgreens taxed LaCroix but not its own label of flavored water.

“While preparing to collect the County’s tax on sweetened beverages, we inadvertently coded some of our products incorrectly within our system that applies taxes during the checkout process,” Walgreens said to DNA Info. “We are working to resolve this complex issue as soon as possible.”

The lawsuit demands a jury trial and at least $50,000 in damages that would refund all improperly taxed purchases.

Cook Country spokesperson Edward Nelson told DNA Info that consumers who were incorrectly taxed on LaCroix should save their receipts and ask the store for a refund.

“Our ultimate goal is to ensure the tax is being applied correctly and fairly,” Nelson said. “We will continue an open dialogue, as we have for the last eight months, with retailers and work to ensure beverages are being correctly taxed.”

Earlier this year, a judge dismissed a similar lawsuit against Walgreens, which accused the chain of incorrectly charging consumers a tax on bottled drinks.

The retail chain would not comment on De Leon’s lawsuit, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.

Photo courtesy of Bloomberg

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

What do you think of the lawsuit against Walgreens? Let us know in the comments below.


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