Dollar stores given $1.2M penalty for selling expired drugs

Family Dollar in Tupper Lake (Provided photo — Jim Lanthier)

Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar will pay $1.2 million in fines and damages for allegedly selling expired drugs, according to the New York state attorney general’s office.

The retail chains were investigated for several years before coming to the settlement, according to a press release from the attorney general’s office. Since March 2016, investigators from that office inspected the stores’ shelves for expired products. They found over-the-counter drugs that had been expired for months.

The investigation also found obsolete, Dollar General-branded motor oils such as DG SAE-30, DG SAE 10W-40 and DG SAE 10W-30.

In December 2017, undercover investigators visited Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores and attempted to return bottles subject to New York’s bottle deposit law. Several stores refused. Some investigators were told those bottles were not available for refunds, and others were told they needed to show proof of purchase, which is illegal, according to the press release.

The settlement requires, along with the $1.2 million fine, that Dollar General and Dollar Tree/Family Dollar stores use an electronic system for keeping track of expiration dates. It also requires employees to rotate stock when restocking shelves, to conduct weekly inspections of products, to conduct monthly audits to check for expired products and to institute third-party audits of 10% of the chains’ New York stores for a period of at least one year to check for expired over-the-counter drugs.

“It’s a tough pill for New Yorkers to swallow that the over-the-counter drugs they were buying may have been expired,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a press release. “New York consumers have a right to expect that products on store shelves are safe, fresh and suitable for their advertised use. These settlements will ensure that Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar will not only pay both a substantial fine and damages, but, more importantly, update their business practices to comply with the law so that no expired over-the-counter drugs are sold to a New York consumer again.”