SACRAMENTO – Assembly Bill 2251, authorizing county officials to respond to consumer complaints about improper California Redemption Value (CRV) charges, was signed by Gov. Brown last week.
Authored by Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), AB 2251 authorizes county agricultural commissioners and sealers of weights and measures, in coordination with the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), to investigate and enforce penalties against retailers who improperly charge the CRV.
“Ambiguity over the authority to investigate complaints and weak enforcement mechanisms provided a loophole allowing some bad actors to overcharge CRV without regulatory oversight,” Assemblymember Yamada said. “Gov. Brown’s signature on AB 2251 protects consumers and also gives California’s unsung consumer protection heroes – our County Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers of Weights and Measures – another tool to ensure that the CRV charge you see on your store receipt is correct.”
Until 2010, CalRecycle referred all consumer complaints regarding CRV overcharges to county agricultural commissioners and sealers because of their statutory responsibility to investigate improper or illegal commodity pricing.
Because the CRV is considered a “surcharge” and not a “commodity,” existing law authorized complaint investigations, yet failed to define who held enforcement authority.
This minor distinction resulted in uninvestigated overcharges with little incentive for self-corrective action when improperly collected monies remained with retailers.
In the summer of 2010, a multi-county pricing and scanning investigation established that Sears and Kmart overcharged advertised prices and that Kmart specifically overcharged and added the CRV for containers not subject to the CRV.
This investigation, led by county agricultural commissioners and district attorneys resulted in a $1.1M settlement against these two retailers.
AB 2251 clarifies and strengthens local investigative and enforcement authority and becomes effective Jan. 1, 2015.
Yamada represents the Fourth Assembly District which includes all or parts of Colusa, Lake, Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties.