Walmart found to be charging double for CRV bottle deposits; untold numbers have overpaid

VACAVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- Mitch Ross of Vacaville knew something wasn't right. As he was ordering a supply of bottled water, he found the bottle deposits cost almost as much as the water itself.

His receipt showed $51 for water, and $48 for the bottle fee.

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"Forty-eight dollars for bottle deposits?'' Ross recalls. "My first reaction was, wow the CRV is almost as much as the water. That doesn't seem right.''

And it wasn't.

Ross had ordered twenty cases of Walmart brand Great Value drinking water on the website. The Walmart site doesn't show the bottle fee until checkout - so he says it's easy to miss.

But there it was: Water, $51. Bottle fee, $48.

"It just stood out to me that, wow that's way too much and then when it started looking at it deeper I realized yeah it is way too much,'' Ross said.

He did the math and realized the company had charged him a 10-cent deposit for each 16-ounce water bottle. That's twice as much as the state's CRV price of just 5 cents a bottle.

Ross contacted his local Walmart store. "I said, 'Guys I think you have a problem here.' I said, 'Has anyone else called you on this? Am I the only one who caught this? I mean that's a lot of money.'"

He says managers at Walmart promised to get it fixed. They didn't. Which means anyone on the Walmart website who bought that water paid twice the CRV.

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"And if they're paying double the price, they owe money back to people, and it could be a lot,'' Ross said.

Ross contacted 7 On Your Side. We did a quick check and found Walmart was charging double CRV on other brands too.

For a 24-bottle case of Dasani Purified Water, Walmart charged a deposit of $2.40. That's 10 cents a bottle, instead of a nickel each.

For a 12-pack of Nestle Purified Water, Walmart charged a deposit of $1.20. Again, that's 10 cents a bottle when it should be five cents.

And for a 20-ounce bottle of Dasani water, it also charged a 10-cent deposit instead of a nickel.

That means even greater losses for consumers having a hard time redeeming their bottles at all. The state's largest recycling center operator shut down this summer, leaving many consumers scrambling to find ways to recycle bottles and cans.

Many say they shouldn't have to pay any CRV at all if they can't get those deposits back. Others complain that, even if they find a recycling center, most of them redeem based on weight of the bottles. And that doesn't usually add up to the full deposit.

And now, to pay double?

"That really adds up,'' Ross said. "Walmart needs to pay people back. I don't want them to be charging everybody double prices and then not fixing it."

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We contacted Walmart -- the company investigated and within days it corrected the CRV overcharges that we pointed out. It did not say how the mistakes happened, how many customers overpaid for CRV deposits, or what will happen to the extra fees it collected.

It did refund Ross for the overcharged fees he paid. But what about other customers? In a statement, Walmart said only:

"We have fully refunded the customer who brought this to our attention and will work to refund customers impacted by this charge. We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers."

Walmart also told us it was "actively engaged" in investigating the mistakes, and how it will refund customers. So far there is no indication that in-store CRV prices were also inflated - only on its website. Check your receipts and if you find overcharges, let 7 On Your Side know about it.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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