Schnuck Markets has agreed to a $4 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed in 2021, claiming the grocer misled its customers by publishing misleading price comparisons for alcohol products sold at its stores between 2015 and 2023.
The grocer has admitted no wrongdoing in the case but has agreed to the settlement, which also includes $1.32 million to pay the plaintiff attorney's fees. Leonard Perry, the plaintiff, will receive $5,000.
The lawsuit asserts that St. Louis-based Schnucks ran afoul of Missouri state law by advertising some alcoholic beverages as on sale, while failing to sell the items at their original price for a mandated length of time.
The settlement has received preliminary approval from a St. Louis Circuit Court, and Perry’s legal team is currently soliciting Missouri residents to join the class.
The lawsuit claims that Perry purchased Meiomi Rose Wine and La Crema Rose Wine, both of which were advertised online, in stores and in print ads as on sale for 20% off, but he argued that the two brands had never been sold at the original price.
Perry’s attorneys noted in the original lawsuit that Missouri state law "prohibits a seller, such as Schnucks, from advertising former price comparisons unless the comparative price is actual ... and not illusory or fictitious."
Schnucks sought a preliminary and permanent writ prohibiting further action on the case on Nov. 2, 2021, but the petition was denied by the Eastern District Court of Appeals. The grocer appealed further to the Missouri Supreme Court 10 days later but that request was also denied.
Scnhucks denied wrongdoing in the settlement agreement and maintained that the lawsuit “is not appropriate for class-action treatment.”
In an email response to Winsight Grocery Business, the company said it "strongly denies the allegations in this lawsuit."
"However, after over two and a half years of contested litigation, Schnucks believes it is in its and its customers’, including its Rewards Members’, best interest to bring the litigation to a close and in a way that benefits those who purchased Schnucks’ wine and alcohol products over the years in Missouri," a company spokesperson said in the email.
The law firm representing the plaintiff could be reached for an official comment on the matter.
Those interested in joining the class are divided into three groups, based on amount purchased. Any Missouri resident who purchased between one and 24 units of alcohol of any kind at a Missouri Schnucks between the class period of Dec. 3, 2015 and Feb. 15 of this year is eligible to join the class without proof of purchase. The payout for the class is $11.
Those who bought between 25 and 60 units of alcohol must provide proof of purchase and are eligible to receive $25. Those who purchased more than 60 units of alcohol and have the receipts to prove it will receive $72 as a member of the class.
People interested in joining the class must submit a claim form by Sept. 8.
It’s unclear whether any similar lawsuits have been filed against grocers in Missouri or other states where similar price-comparison laws exist. But the law has been used in several class-action lawsuits in California against other retail businesses.
For example, The Children’s Place Inc. agreed to a settlement of $6.8 million in 2021 for a similar case in which a retailer was deemed to have falsely listed items as on sale. And in 2016, Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc. settled a price-comparison class action lawsuit for $6.15 million.
* This story was updated to include comments from Schnuck Markets, Inc.