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Rite Aid Accused of Overcharging

September 23, 1999

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Rite Aid Corp. pharmacies in Florida allegedly used cash registers that were automatically programmed to ring up extra surcharges totaling more than $100,000 over a 27-month period, according to a lawsuit filed by the state.

The racketeering lawsuit filed Wednesday by Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth accuses Rite Aid of intentionally overcharging 29,000 uninsured customers.

Rite Aid had two prices for the same prescriptions, adding an average surcharge of $1.15 per prescription for uninsured customers, said Mary Leontakianakos, Butterworth’s chief of economic crimes.

``When you look at it, $100,000 doesn’t seem like an awful lot of money, but a couple of dollars here and there is significant to someone who is on Medicaid and living on a fixed income,″ Leontakianakos said.

Rite Aid, in a brief statement, said the suit is without merit and that ``not one customer was deceived or defrauded.″

``We are confident we will prevail,″ the Camp Hill, Pa.-based company said.

While the investigation of Rite Aid covered just over a two-year period, Leontakianakos said it appears the practice stretched into the last decade.

``There were a lot more,″ Leontakianakos said. ``We looked at a snapshot. We looked at a 27-month period. Our information is they had been doing this since the late ’80s.″

Leontakianakos said the Rite Aid policy was likely used in all its stores and her office has notified attorneys general in other states. She said the company stopped the surcharges three months after receiving a subpoena from Butterworth’s office.

Some pharmacists disapproved of the policy and only added a penny extra to the prescription costs. Others quit over the policy, she said.

Rite Aid, the nation’s third-largest drugstore chain, had 34 drugstores in Florida during the period of the allegations. It no longer operates in the state, she said.

The attorney general’s office is seeking triple damages against the chain under racketeering laws and fines of $10,000 or $15,000 for each violation. The higher fine will be sought in cases when elderly customers were charged extra.

Authorities also want Rite Aid to return the nearly $100,000 in surcharges.

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