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Starbucks Drops Hidden Coffee Bean Fee After Mass. Probe

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(File photo credit PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

(File photo credit PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) – Starbucks has dropped an undisclosed fee on certain bags of coffee beans after a state investigation uncovered the practice in Massachusetts.

The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation found that Starbucks was adding a $1.50 surcharge to bags of beans that weighed less than a pound and did not inform customers as required by law.

The fee was not posted in the stores or on customers’ receipts.

“A consumer buying a half pound of coffee that was marked as $11.95 a pound would ordinarily think a half pound would cost 50 percent of the pound price or $5.80. Instead, a half-pound of coffee that was labeled as $11.95 a pound, for example, would end up costing $7.30, instead of $5.80,” the state agency said in a statement Monday.

State investigators estimate approximately 75,000 consumers were charged the extra fee.

Authorities say they were told about the hidden surcharge back in August.

The Office of Consumer Affairs did a survey of Starbucks in Auburn, Boston, Brookline, Chestnut Hill, Chicopee, Dedham, Framingham and Holyoke, and found the fee at each shop.

The Division of Standards then inspected five Starbucks in Andover, Bedford, Reading, Concord and Burlington on October 31 and November 1 and found the same issue.

They fined the stores a total of $1,575.

“Last week, Starbucks agreed to end the fee in Massachusetts and other stores across the country, and early this week the company notified the Office of Consumer Affairs in writing that it had ended the fee in all of its U.S. stores,” the state said in a statement.

Alan Hilowitz, a spokesman for Starbucks, told the Boston Globe the coffee giant charged for half-pound bags to cover “the additional labor and packaging needed to accommodate those customers’ unique request.’’

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