The Santa Monica City Attorney’s office has filed a civil lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the owners of nine Santa Monica dry cleaning and laundry businesses. The lawsuit alleges that the businesses are violating a state disclosure law designed to prevent price discrimination based on the customer’s gender.
The California “Gender Discrimination Repeal Act” was passed in 1996 and is designed to keep retail businesses honest in their pricing of services to men and women. The law prohibits differential pricing for men and women unless there is a legitimate difference in the time, difficulty, or cost of providing the service.
In addition, the law requires that three kinds of businesses that traditionally have had problems with gender price discrimination — tailors, dry cleaners, and hair salons — do three things:
(1) clearly post the prices for their 15 most-requested services;
(2) give customers a complete price list upon request; and
(3) post a large anti-discrimination sign with prescribed language.
In February last year, the city attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit sent a courtesy letter to each of Santa Monica’s 48 cleaners and 91 hair salons, advising them of the disclosure and posting requirements.
Two months later, a follow-up inspection of 29 businesses chosen at random showed that none were fully complying with the law, deputy city attorney Adam Radinsky said.
The unit then wrote a second letter to the businesses that were found in violation, reminding them of the law and warning of possible legal consequences if they continued in violation. This letter brought positive results and a follow-up inspection in October showed that 12 of the 21 of the original violators had the required signage and price lists available. Nine of the 21 still were not fully complying with the three requirements ñ and some not at all, Radinsky said.
A final inspection on May 2nd showed that the same nine businesses still lacked the required signage and/or available price lists, Radinsky said.
This lawsuit is filed against these nine businesses:
— Metropolitan Cleaners;
— Executive Cleaners and Laundry;
— Dryclean Express;
— Santa Monica Cleaners;
— Yale Cleaners;
— TJ Cleaners and Tailor Shop;
— 16th Street Cleaners;
— Quality Express Cleaners; and
— Santa Monica Valet Shop.
The lawsuit is filed under the California Unfair Competition Law, which prohibits businesses from engaging in any unfair or unlawful acts or practices.
The city attorney’s office is seeking an injunction against further violations and monetary penalties.
“We are glad that most businesses eventually did the right thing and complied with the law once we told them the requirements,” said Radinsky. “This lawsuit is to make sure that all businesses follow the law. Female customers shouldn’t have to wonder if they’re getting fair pricing when they go to the cleaners ñ or to the hair salon.”