Last month, a putative class action was filed against Starbucks, Inc. in California federal court alleging that the coffee giant is tricking customers into purchasing larger espresso-based drinks when they contain the same amount of caffeine as the smaller size.
The complaint alleges that Starbucks engages in a “classic bait-and-switch scheme that causes unsuspecting consumers to shell out more money for Venti-sized espresso beverages under the false belief that the Venti-sized espresso beverage contains more espresso, and thus more caffeine, than the medium Grande-sized drinks. However, in reality, consumers receive a more expensive Venti-sized drink containing the same amount of espresso and caffeine as the cheaper Grande-sized” drink. The complaint further alleges that Starbucks’ misleading practice “offends reasonable consumer expectations” that as the drinks increase in size, so too does the amount of coffee or espresso, and correspondingly, the caffeine.
The complaint further alleges that nowhere on Starbucks’ in-store or drive-thru menus does it inform customers as to the true amount of espresso or the caffeine content of its Venti-sized espresso beverages and that such information can only be found by reference to Starbucks’ website. According to the plaintiff, she and those similarly situated would not have paid more to purchase the Venti-sized drink had they known the truth about its caffeine content.
Takeaway: This lawsuit appears to be one in a long string of related lawsuits to beverage drink sizes. As we wrote about previously, a class action was dismissed regarding the claim that Starbucks offered deceptive drink sizes simply by including ice in their various iced beverages. Advertisers should be ready for potential copycat lawsuits from the class action bar.