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Colorado adds to Office Depot pricing woes


Denver Office Depot acknowledged Monday that Colorado is now the fourth state to launch an investigation into the retailer’s pricing practices through the U.S. Communities contract program, according to a report in the Palm Beach Post.

Colorado joins Florida, Missouri and Texas in the open investigation. In addition, Office Depot said that the U.S. Departments of Defense and Education and the General Services Administration are working with the Department of Justice to investigate "pricing practices that relate to sales to certain federal agencies."

Office Depot spokesman Brian Levine said in an e-mail to the Post that the Colorado attorney general's office had told the company that the investigation had been launched based on allegations by an organization representing independent office-supplies retailers that compete with Office Depot.

There has been no reported confirmation or denial of the investigation from the attorney general.

"Office Depot will fully cooperate with the Colorado AG's office, as we do in all government and regulatory inquires," the retailer said in a written statement.

In April 2008, a Denver-area school district looked into the pricing of office-supplies purchases from Office Depot after an independent think tank made an open records request of the district’s office-supplies purchases. Over a two-year period, the school found pricing errors on only 494 items out of 21,549 purchases. Some items had been overpriced; others had been underpriced.

Colorado's investigation marks the latest of several inquiries into whether the retail giant's contract through the U.S. Communities program charged municipalities, states and even the federal government more than expected.

Audits of the sales have created mixed results, ranging from a finding of no overcharges to five-figure refunds.

The office of Florida's attorney general opened a case last May to look into a former Office Depot employee's accusations that the company was bidding low but selling high.

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