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Extortion By Government

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, September 12, 2006

Price Chopper paid a $10,000 fine to make a lawsuit from the Attorney General of Vermont go away.

The gist of the matter was that the attorney general in what some of us affectionately call The People’s Republic of Vermont sued the Golub Corporation, the parent company of Price Chopper supermarkets alleging fraud because it advertised its fresh produce as “Farm Fresh”.

The basis of the lawsuit was that a publicity-hungry attorney general, who should be ashamed of himself for harassing honest businesses for no reason, decided that only produce that was delivered directly from Vermont farms to stores could be considered farm fresh.

This is obviously ridiculous. First, in many cases, produce from a New York or New Hampshire farm may actually be closer to a store than Vermont produce. Second, the fact that Price Chopper uses a distribution center tells us nothing about the actual freshness of product offered to a consumer. What if a retailer takes store delivery direct from a farmer once a week but Price Chopper gives daily deliveries from its distribution center?

Third, it is an advertising term, fluffery, with no specific meaning. There is zero evidence that any consumer was deceived or harmed in any way.

I understand why Price Chopper settled. Ten thousand dollars is less than what the lawyers would charge the first week they began working toward a trial. Still, I wish they hadn’t settled. Businesses have to stand up against this kind of extortion by government or it is bound to happen again and again.

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