PhotoThe next time you’re bargain shopping at Dollar General, Dollar Tree, or Family Dollar, you might want to pay a little more attention to see if a product’s expiration date hasn’t passed.

The New York Attorney General’s office paid considerable attention to those cautionary flags and has now ordered those bargain stores to pay $1.2 million in fines and damages as a result of selling expired over-the-counter drugs, obsolete motor oil, and more.

“It’s a tough pill for New Yorkers to swallow that the over-the-counter drugs they were buying may have been expired,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a news release. 

“New York consumers have a right to expect that products on store shelves are safe, fresh and suitable for their advertised use. These settlements will ensure that Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Family Dollar will not only pay both a substantial fine and damages, but, more importantly, update their business practices to comply with the law so that no expired over-the-counter drugs are sold to a New York consumer again.” 

Motor oil?

While finding the expiration dates on grocery items is pretty easy, it’s not the same for other products. For example, fake UL labels have been slapped on low-cost items such as power strips, extension cords, mobile-phone chargers, and batteries, which could lead to fire and shock hazards.

The interesting twist in this case is that the fine involves motor oil. Investigators found several Dollar General stores selling one company-branded motor oil that isn’t suitable for most automobile engines built after 1930; another oil was found to be unfit for engines built after 1988. 

Adding to the investigators’ dismay, the descriptions of those motor oils were strikingly close to more well-known brands and placed on the same shelves without any signage warning consumers about the mismatch of the oils with today’s car engines.

The New York Attorney General’s office says that customers who bought the old motor oil can file a complaint online

A good reminder to pay attention

While the settlement is centered on Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Family Dollar stores in New York, it’s still a reminder that, no matter where you live, there are reasons why a product is sold for as low as a dollar -- and some of those reasons wind up being bad for the consumer.

A core of ConsumerAffairs reporting is about recalls, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission has dozens of pages of recalls and warnings about various consumer products. Before you buy something that might cost you mightily in another regard like health or safety, it might be wise to do a quick search to see if that product is safe and dependable.

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