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Walgreens Sued Over Soda Tax

(STMW) — Walgreens has been improperly collecting Cook County’s new sweetened beverage tax on unsweetened drinks, according to a class action lawsuit filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court.

Vince De Leon, a northwest suburban Schaumburg resident, filed the two-count suit on behalf of himself and anyone who has paid the new tax on an unsweetened drink at a Walgreens location. It alleges that Walgreens violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and was unjustly enriched by collecting the taxes.

The Sweetened Beverage Tax Ordinance went into effect on Aug. 2 and adds an extra penny-per-ounce tax to sugar-sweetened beverages, including everything from sodas to sweetened iced teas. The tax does not apply to unsweetened drinks such as bottled water, 100 percent juice and sparkling water.

De Leon alleges he was wrongfully charged the sweetened beverage tax on a case of Dasani Tropical Pineapple Sparkling Water on Aug. 4 at the Walgreens store in the 1000 block of North Roselle Road in northwest suburban Hoffman Estates, even though the case was “clearly labeled ‘unsweetened,’ ” according to the lawsuit. De Leon didn’t know he should not have been charged the tax until later and claims Walgreens deceived him in the purchase.

The lawsuit details two other transactions in which people who are unnamed in the complaint were charged the sweetened beverage tax on unsweetened beverages.

A Walgreens store in west suburban Western Springs charged the tax on a case of Dasani Black Cherry Sparkling Water on Aug. 3, and a store in Chicago charged the tax on a bottle of Lipton Pure Leaf Unsweetened Green Tea, according to the lawsuit. In both purchases, the beverages were “clearly labeled ‘unsweetened.’ ”

The lawsuit accuses Walgreens of continuing to knowingly charge the tax on unsweetened beverages after publicly admitting the mistake in an Aug. 2 DNAinfo article.

When asked for comment by the Chicago Sun-Times, a representative for Walgreens declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The class action lawsuit demands a trial by jury and seeks at least $50,000 in damages, including the refund of all improperly charged sweetened beverage taxes paid by De Leon and others who qualify.

CBS 2 has also observed some retailers charging the sweetened-beverage tax on exempt drinks, including sparkling water.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire copy; Chicago Sun-Times 2017. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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