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Starbucks Scared Into Dropping $1.50 Bean Fee After a Massachusetts Fine

Starbucks coffee beans
Mario Tama, Getty Images

Starbucks discontinued its $1.50 surcharge for bags of beans weighing less than a pound nationwide, after the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation fined them for it.

The state consumer group discovered in August that the coffee chain wasn’t properly notifying customers that it was tacking on a fee of about $1.50 for bags of beans that weighed less than a pound. So, if a customer purchased a half-pound of beans at a cost of $11.95 per pound, they would actually pay $7.45 for the bag, instead of $5.98, which would be half the per pound price.

Massachusetts law requires that stores post signs informing customers of surcharges, or at least instruct employees tell customers about additional fees at the time of purchase. The group’s investigation found that Starbucks’ bean fee wasn’t even reflected on receipts.

Barbara Anthony, Massachusetts undersecretary of consumer affairs said, “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.”

The Seattle-based company claims the surcharge was intended to cover the cost of “the additional labor and packaging needed to accommodate those customers’ unique request.” The Massachusetts agency doesn’t know how long Starbucks has been charging the fee.

The state fined the coffee giant $1,575 for overcharge violations at five stores. Anthony said that the agreement to drop the surcharge is not a legal settlement and that the state is in talks with Starbucks about how to compensate customers.

Starbucks dropped the fee nationwide on November 7.

[Associated Press via The Huffington Post]

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