Arent Fox LLP

01/13/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/13/2021 14:06

The Worst Part of Waking Up is Getting Sued: Class Action Filed Against Folgers Coffee Co., Alleging False Advertising and Labelling

After doing the math, a consumer claims that Folger's coffee canisters contain an average of just 68% of the servings advertised on the product labels.

Folgers' Alleged Bait-and-Switch Scheme

Folgers sells a variety of ground and instant coffee products, including varying sizes of canisters of ground coffee. Through its product packaging, Folgers' canisters are held out as containing enough ground coffee to produce a specified number of servings, ranging from 90 to 270 six fluid ounce cups of coffee depending on the size of the canister. Each canister also provides instructions directing consumers to use one tablespoon of ground coffee per serving.

In her complaint, the consumer alleges that when following these directions, the canisters cannot possibly produce the number of servings advertised. According to the consumer's calculations, on average, each canister contains enough ground coffee to produce just 68.33% of the servings advertised. For example, packaging for Folgers' 30.5 ounce canister states that the canister contains enough ground coffee to produce 240 six fluid ounce cups of coffee. According to the complaint, however, the canister only contains enough ground coffee to produce 173 servings, or 72% of the advertised total.

The consumer alleges that by exaggerating the number of servings each canister can produce, Folgers is engaging in a 'classic and unlawful bait-and-switch scheme that causes unsuspecting consumers to spend more money for less than the advertised amount of coffee they believe they are purchasing.' The consumer further alleges that Folgers has been able to sustain this scheme because consumers are unlikely to keep track of the servings of coffee generated per canister and their own consumption over time.

The putative class action lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Illinois and asserts claims under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and state consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices law. In addition to damages, attorney's fees, and injunctive relief, the consumer is asking the court to require Folgers and J.M. Smucker to modify their packaging and other advertising materials to reflect the 'accurate' serving amounts per canister.

To date, Folgers and J.M. Smucker have not filed an answer, and the case is still ongoing.

Takeaways

This case is a reminder that product packaging and labels are a favorite target for class action attorneys and other litigants. Other beverage manufacturers, for example, have faced lawsuits related to the use of fanciful product names and the pictures displayed on beverage labels. As with all advertisements, product packaging and labels should be carefully scrutinized to ensure they comply with key regulatory requirements and do not convey unsubstantiated or potentially misleading messages.

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