By Pat Loeb

CITY HALL (CBS) — Philadelphia shoppers have been finding steep surcharges on grocery bills since the sweetened beverage tax kicked in, but Mayor Jim Kenney describes some of it as “gouging” by retailers who want to make customers angry about the tax.

Signs went up in stores and on vending machines telling customers price hikes were part of the beverage tax, receipts were programmed to charge the tax as a separate line item, it was applied to items that weren’t taxed and retailers blamed the complex process of passing the tax along.

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All of it, said Mayor Kenney, is “wrong” and “misleading.”

“This is what they do. They spent 10 1/2 Million dollars in an advertising campaign to beat the tax, they lost,” he said. “They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and they lost. And they’ll continue to lose because their legal case is not sound and their public case is not sound.”

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Kenney said he believes most customers understand the reason for the tax and he believes it doesn’t need to impact them as much as it has.

“They’re gouging their own customers.”

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Among retailers, only Shop Rite has responded, saying they are passing the tax along because it greatly increases sweetened beverage prices and it wants customers to know.