BEIJING, Jan 27, 2011 (AFP) - French retailer Carrefour has apologised after 11 of its stores in China were caught overcharging customers for products such as cotton underwear and tea leaves, state media said Thursday.
Carrefour "sincerely apologises" and offered to refund customers five times the difference between the price charged and that on the label, the China Daily said, citing a statement from the company.
Officials at Carrefour did not respond to repeated AFP requests for a reaction.
A nationwide investigation also busted three Wal-Mart stores for deceiving customers over the price of goods but the US retail giant made no admissions of guilt in a statement sent to AFP on Thursday.
Wal-Mart said it would continue to "conduct thorough investigations of cases relating to pricing issues" and during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday would further strengthen "the supervision of commodity pricing".
Local authorities have been ordered to fine the Carrefour and Wal-Mart stores for deceptive pricing practices and confiscate their "illegal income", the National Development and Reform Commission said on its website Wednesday.
Fines will be five times the amount confiscated, or up to 500,000 yuan ($76,000) if the amount cannot be calculated, the statement said.
The commission, China's top economic planner, also urged authorities to step up price investigations ahead of the Lunar New Year, which falls on February 3, and punish serious offenders with fines and licence suspension.
Retail spending usually soars for the most important holiday of the year as people splash out on food and gifts for families and friends.
The crackdown comes as Beijing tries to curb inflation, which rose 4.6 percent on year in December, down from a two-year high of 5.1 percent in November.
But analysts expect consumer prices to increase at a faster pace this month due to cold weather and the holiday season.