Tops Markets Settles Improper Tax Charge

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a settlement with a Western New York supermarket chain over allegations that it inappropriately collected a new state cigarette sales tax.

Tops Markets, Inc., based in Williamsville in Erie County, has agreed to pay $6,000 in civil penalties and costs to the state to settle charges that it inappropriately charged a sales tax on cigarettes three days earlier than state law allowed.

The company also agreed to provide $15,000 for a restitution pool to the Attorney General's Office to provide refunds for hundreds of customers who were charged for an increased cigarette sales tax three days prior to its implementation.

"Tops began collecting an additional tax on cigarettes before the tax was actually in effect," Spitzer said. "This was unfair to consumers and it clearly undercut public trust in the company."

A state law, effective March 1, raised by an additional 55 cents the total tax required to be collected by retail establishments for cigarettes. New York's cigarette tax now stands at $1.11 per pack.

Tops officials had publicly stated that its charging of the cigarette tax was a programming glitch because its computer pricing system is programmed on weekends.

Individuals who purchased cigarettes from Tops Markets between Sunday, February 27 and Tuesday, February 29 are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755. Consumers have until October 23, 2000 to file a complaint form in order to be eligible for a refund.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Carlos Rodriguez of the Rochester Regional Office.