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Consumer Law

Hit with $1.50 Starbucks Fee for Coffee Purchase, a Well-Connected Individual Makes a Difference

Posted Nov 14, 2011 5:26 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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An undisclosed $1.50 fee that Starbucks reportedly was charging nationwide to customers who purchased less than a pound of coffee is no more.

The coffee company decided to eliminate the fee after a relative brought it to the attention of the undersecretary of the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. That resulted in a buying campaign, in Boston and elsewhere, by individuals with a connection to the office, as well as fines for several Starbucks outlets in Massachusetts who charged the $1.50 fee to representatives of the Massachusetts Division of Standards, reports the Seattle Times.

"We'd been talking with Starbucks, and we wanted things to move a little faster," said Barbara Anthony, the undersecretary. "Once the facts are there, there doesn't seem to be much point in dragging it out, because consumers are being injured while you are chatting."

In a press release, she explained: "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."

A Starbucks representative said the $1.50 fee represented the extra cost of dividing a bigger bag and noted that smaller-size purchases often cost more per unit.

Anthony said her office is now discussing with Starbucks how customers who were charged the extra fee should be compensated, reports the Associated Press.

The Boston Globe also has a story.

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