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Petco to settle lawsuit

Petco Animal Supplies Inc. was ordered to pay $1.75 million to settle a civil law enforcement case alleging that California consumers were overcharged and animals were neglected or mistreated in the chain’s stores, it was announced on June 2.

Petco, based in La Jolla, did not admit liability in the settlement approved by Superior Court Judge Richard Whitney.

This marks the second time in six years that a court has ordered the firm to pay penalties in a civil law enforcement case. In 2004, Petco paid more than $850,000 to resolve similar allegations brought by California prosecutors.

The current case stemmed from state and county inspections of Petco stores across California from 2005 to 2008, authorities said.

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith acknowledged Petco’s cooperation in the investigation and resolution of the case, but noted that the 2004 settlement should have been a wake-up call for the company.

Under the terms of the court order, if a Petco customer is overcharged, the store must deduct $3 from the lowest advertised or posted price of the item. If the item is $3 or less, the store must give one of the items to the customer for free.

The policy will be in effect for five years and must be posted in every Petco store in California. The company must also conduct regular pricing audits to ensure that customers are charged the correct price, according to the settlement.