Schaumburg man: Walgreens improperly collected soda tax
A Schaumburg man says Walgreens improperly charged him the Cook County "soda tax" on unsweetened beverages he recently purchased and that it violates Illinois' consumer fraud and deceptive practices act.
In a class-action lawsuit filed Monday, Vince De Leon claims he purchased a case of Dasani Tropical Pineapple Sparkling Water from a store on the 1000 block of North Roselle Road in Hoffman Estates.
De Leon's complaint says he was charged the sweetened beverage tax even though the product was "clearly labeled unsweetened." De Leon paid the tax and was therefore "deceived by Walgreens' actions," according to the complaint.
After a monthlong delay, Cook County on Aug. 2 implemented the penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages, including soda, artificially sweetened beverages, and bottled coffee and tea with sweetener. The tax exempts 100 percent natural juices, milk, medical and nutritional supplements, and powder or syrup supplements.
An answer to a question on the county's website about the tax states, "If the product does not contain any caloric or noncaloric sweeteners as defined in the ordinance, it is not taxable." The Dasani Tropical Pineapple Sparkling Water lists as ingredients carbonated water and "natural flavors."
A Walgreens spokesman declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.
De Leon claims Walgreens is improperly collecting the tax on unsweetened beverages as evidenced by receipts supplied by others in the class action suit that are attached to the complaint filed by his attorney, Elizabeth A. Fegan.
Among them is an Aug. 3 receipt that shows $1.92 in tax applied to the purchase of two eight-packs of Dasani Black Cherry Sparkling Water from a Western Springs Walgreens, and an Aug. 4 receipt showing 18 cents in extra tax on a purchase of one bottle of Lipton Pure Leaf Unsweetened Green Tea from a Chicago Walgreens.
"Walgreens has publicly admitted it is wrongly charging the pop tax on unsweetened beverages, yet it continues to do so without informing customers that they are being wrongly charged," claims the complaint, which seeks damages of at least $50,000, including refunds to class members of the taxes they paid on the drinks.
It further alleges Walgreens "has been and continues to be unjustly enriched as a result of the wrongful collection of the sweetened beverage tax on unsweetened beverages."