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Starbucks fined for hidden fee on coffee

Posted by Mitch Lipka  November 14, 2011 09:21 AM

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Starbucks has been charging an undisclosed $1.50 fee on bagged coffee nationwide when consumers purchased less than one pound, the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation said today.

Starbucks agreed to drop the charge and was fined $1,575 by the Division of Standards, which discovered the charge during a price survey.

When Starbucks employees would sell a half-pound of coffee that was marked at around $12 per pound, instead of charging about $6 for the half pound, the extra $1.50 fee was tacked on. It didn't appear on the receipt and wasn't disclosed in stores, state officials said.

The state estimated that about 75,000 consumers paid that fee.

“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,” Consumer Affairs chief Barbara Anthony said. "We are pleased that Starbucks has decided to drop this fee, ending any confusion for consumers buying coffee in their stores.”

State inspectors found in the in a price check in August at Stabucks stores in Auburn, Boston, Brookline, Chestnut Hill, Chicopee, Dedham, Framingham and Holyoke.

In a follow-up two weeks ago, the fee was assessed in Starbucks stores in Andover, Bedford, Reading, Concord and Burlington.

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About the author

Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at


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