RALPHS CHARGED WITH FALSE ADVERTISING

COMPTON, Calif. -- For the third time in the last year and a half, Ralphs Grocery Co. here has been charged with false advertising and overcharging on sale items.The Los Angeles City Attorney's office cited Ralphs and 10 of its store supervisors with 17 counts of false advertising for failing to remove expired tags on sale items and 17 counts for overcharging when those items rang up at checkouts

COMPTON, Calif. -- For the third time in the last year and a half, Ralphs Grocery Co. here has been charged with false advertising and overcharging on sale items.

The Los Angeles City Attorney's office cited Ralphs and 10 of its store supervisors with 17 counts of false advertising for failing to remove expired tags on sale items and 17 counts for overcharging when those items rang up at checkouts with a price higher than the tag price.

When similar charges were filed against the chain in November 1992, Ralphs pleaded no contest and agreed to pay $3,500 in fines. It paid an undetermined sum earlier this year, and its fines in the current case could run as high as $133,650, though the total is likely to be lower.

The current charges against Ralphs resulted from an investigation between July and October 1993. The charges, involving 10 units of the chain, are the tail end of an investigation by the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures Department that also found violations at 41 other Ralphs stores throughout Los Angeles County during the same period. Those cases were adjudicated by other agencies, not covered by the city attorney's office.

Al Marasca, Ralphs president and chief operating officer, told SN the chain expects to settle the current charges without a trial at its May 10 arraignment.

"The charges are based on violations that occurred several months ago on promotional items that had gone back to their regular price," Marasca explained. "However, at certain stores the promotional tags were not removed. In the eight months since the investigation ended, we've strengthened our controls to make sure we check price tags every day."