Walmart and Sam’s Club shoppers who made a return in the last five years could soon be entitled to money as part of a class action settlement.
In a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, shoppers claimed that the big-box chain stiffed customers on full refunds on returned items purchased in stores or online from Walmart or Sam’s Club. According to a notice on Friday, the parties have reached a compromise to end the lawsuit, and Walmart has agreed to provide compensation to people who might have been affected.
“We are pleased to have reached a proposed resolution and that the court granted preliminary approval,” a Walmart spokesperson wrote in an email to FN.
The settlement class includes all customers who returned a Walmart- or Sam’s Club-purchased product during the period from July 17, 2015 to Nov. 25, 2020. These individuals were given either a refund or credit, but the amount of sales tax refunded or credited might have been less than the full amount of sales tax paid at the time the item was bought.
Despite the number of returns made over the five-year period, each shopper can collect only one payment from the settlement.
Members of the settlement are eligible to receive an equal share of a $5 million fund, following deductions for attorneys’ fees, litigation expenses and administrative costs. They have been given the option to file a claim by April 1; exclude themselves from the settlement, which means they will not receive payment; or send objections to the parties’ lawyers.
The court is expected to hold a final approval hearing on April 21. A judge will then decide whether to grant any requests for fees, expenses and incentives.
The case, Pearlstone v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., dates back to December 2017, when plaintiff Scott Pearlstone argued that Walmart violated Missouri state law by failing to include sales tax in consumer refunds. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer’s return policy allows shoppers to return products within 90 days of purchase. They can receive refunds through in-store credit without a receipt or via the original payment method with a receipt. Walmart has not admitted to any wrongdoing.