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Wal-Mart tool gives competitors’ prices

NEW YORK – Wal-Mart has unveiled an online tool that allows shoppers to compare its prices on 80,000 food and household products to those of its competitors.

The world’s largest retailer began offering the feature on its website late last month in seven big markets that include Dallas, San Diego and Atlanta.

The move by Wal-Mart, which has a long history of undercutting competitors, could change the way people shop and how other retailers price their merchandise. Other retailers offer to match the lower prices of rivals – but only if shoppers do the research on their own. The idea behind Wal-Mart’s online feature, on the other hand, is to do the legwork for customers.

Wendy’s beginning mobile pay option

NEW YORK – Wendy’s is rolling out a program that lets customers pay using their smartphones, following similar plans unveiled by Burger King earlier this week.

The Wendy’s Co., based in Dublin, Ohio, has been testing the mobile payment option over the past year and said the majority of its roughly 5,800 U.S. locations are now ready to accept the payments.

The move reflects a push by fast-food chains to court younger customers by tapping into the attachment they have to their phones.

Burger King Worldwide Inc. said this week it would introduce a mobile payment program at its U.S. restaurants in April.

Shrimp costs putting hurt on Red Lobster

ORLANDO, Fla. – A spike in shrimp costs is causing trouble for Red Lobster.

Parent company Darden has been fighting for some time to win back customers at its Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains as more affordable alternatives such as Chipotle have gained in popularity.

But in recent months, higher shrimp costs have become another factor weighing on Red Lobster. Chief Financial Officer Brad Richmond says the company is facing a $30 million increase in shrimp costs on an annual basis.

The Orlando-based company on Friday reported a lower quarterly profit due to weak sales at its Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains.

Darden has said it will spin off or sell Red Lobster to focus its attention on fixing Olive Garden.

Families sue GM over faulty ignition switch

DETROIT – The families of three teenagers killed or injured in a 2006 Wisconsin car crash are suing General Motors, alleging that the company was negligent in designing its small cars and committed fraud by not disclosing facts about the defects.

Natasha Weigel, who was 18, and Amy Rademaker, who was 15, died after the October 2006 crash involving a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt compact car with a faulty ignition switch. The car’s driver, Megan Phillips, suffered permanent brain damage, according to a statement from the families’ law firm.

GM failed to warn the teens of a dangerous defect and misrepresented the car’s safety, said lawyer Robert Hilliard in a statement. The firm said the lawsuit was filed Friday in Hennepin County, Minn., where the car was purchased.

The crash was among the first blamed on the faulty ignition switches. Last month GM recalled 1.6 million Cobalts and other small cars worldwide to replace the switches. The company has admitted knowing about the problem for at least 11 years before taking the action.