Aug 24 2016

Judge Dismisses Suit Against Starbucks Over Iced Drinks

A lawsuit brought against Starbucks in Federal Court in California over the amount of liquid in their iced drinks has been dismissed by the court as baseless. A plaintiff claiming to be a Starbucks consumer brought a class action lawsuit against the coffee giant alleging that its iced drinks contain less liquid in it than advertised because of the presence of ice. Of course, in reality, the claim was not brought because the consumer was upset that he missed out on an ounce or two of iced coffee; the case was brought in the hope that it would be certified as a class action, meaning big bucks for the lawyers who brought it and perhaps a Starbucks coupon for a few free drinks for the class plaintiffs.

starbucksBut Judge Percy Anderson made quick work of the case throwing it out at the pleading stage. The plaintiffs had claimed that due to the presence of ice the cups did not contain the amount of liquid they were supposed to contain. For example, the “Venti” did not actually contain 24 ounces of liquid it contained about 14 ounces and the “Grande” did not have 16 ounces, it had 12. In order to win, they would have to prove that a reasonable consumer would be fooled or defrauded by the cup size and amount of liquid received. After noting that most children know that if they want more liquid in their cups, they simply ask for “No Ice” Judge Anderson stated:

If children have figured out that including ice in a cold beverage decreases the amount of liquid they will receive, the Court has no difficulty concluding that a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into thinking that when they order an iced tea, that the drink they receive will
include both ice and tea and that for a given size cup, some portion of the drink will be ice rather than whatever liquid beverage the consumer ordered.

After all, he went on – its called iced coffee. You get it in a clear cup. You can see that it has ice and if it has too much ice you need only ask the barista to make you another one with less ice. The Starbucks menu does not say you get 24oz of liquid in a Venti, the court stated, but rather is a referral to the overall cup size whose content is clearly visible when you receive the product. He even mocked the claims noting: Plaintiff also appears to ignore that a reasonable consumer understands that depending on how warm the liquid is when it is mixed with the ice, and how long it takes to drink the beverage, some portion of the ice will melt and be drinkable. For all of these reasons, the court stated, the complaint has no merit and must be dismissed.

Its nice to see that common sense prevailed and that this attempt to troll money out of Starbucks failed miserably. A similar case is pending in Chicago and one can expect the same result there as well. But a Federal judge in San Francisco recently allowed a case to move forward that alleges that Starbucks’ lattes are also ripping off consumers because they contain only about half the amount of liquid reflected in the cup size with the rest filled with foam. The complaint also argues that Starbucks changed its recipe in 2009 specifically to add more foam to its lattes to save money on milk. The lattes are also not served in clear cups so this lawsuit has a better chance of succeeding since consumers would not be able tell how much product and how much foam is in each cup and since Starbucks purposefully increased the foam amount to reduce the latte amount. Expect Starbucks to begin changing how its menu reflects its drink sizes to avoid problems in the future. I would not be surprised to see a disclaimer saying that size values are estimates and may not necessarily reflect the amount of liquid in your cup. Yeah, its come to that.

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