Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar will pay $1.2 million in fines and restitution to the New York Attorney General to resolve allegations that they routinely sold expired medicines and failed to comply with New York’s bottle deposit law. The bulk of the penalty – $1.1 million – will be paid by Dollar General, which is accused of selling two types of motor oil that have been obsolete for almost 30 and 90 years, respectively.
Investigators began secretly shopping at the discount chains in March 2016, inspecting shelves for expired products. At stores throughout the state of New York, they found over-the-counter medicines for sale months past their expiration dates. At Dollar General stores, they also found at least two types of store-brand motor oil that is not suitable for most modern car engines. One type of motor oil has been obsolete since 1988, and the other since 1930. These motor oils were placed on store shelves next to, and used packaging with the same or similar descriptors as, brand-name motor oils that are suitable for modern engines. There were no signs or other indicators to warn customers that they should be used only on antique vehicles.
During the course of their investigation, authorities also observed employees of the Dollar Tree and Family Dollar wrongfully refusing to accept bottles in violation of New York’s bottle deposit law. The law requires retailers to accept bottles for return if the store sells bottles of the same design, shape, size, color, composition and brand – regardless of whether the particular bottle to be returned was originally sold in that store. In other instances, undercover investigators were charged bottle deposits on bottles that should have been exempt under the law. Dollar Tree and Family Dollar will implement enhanced training on bottle redemption procedures and pay $100,000 in penalties to resolve these allegations.
To resolve the allegations surrounding the sale of expired drugs, all three chains will implement enhanced policies and procedures for managing their stock of over-the-counter medicines. The chains will record and track expiration dates electronically when merchandise reaches distribution centers, enforce policies and procedures on stock rotation when restocking store shelves, conduct weekly inspections and monthly audits to find and remove expired products, and use third-party auditors to inspect 10% of their New York stores for one year.