Consumers in New York and California started a national class action lawsuit accusing Starbucks of fraud and false advertising for under-filling the chain’s popular lattes by up to 25%. The Plaintiffs sought unspecified damages. The Plaintiff’s alleged that a standardized recipe used by the company saved money on milk, which happened to be one of the more expensive ingredients.
District Judge Yvonne Rogers was unconvinced by the plaintiff’s evidence that Starbucks was cheating its customers by using “fill-to” lines on their cups and that foam in beverages should not count toward drink volumes. Judge Rogers said that reasonable customers would expect foam to take up some space in their beverages seeing that foam is an essential part of lattes and mochas. Starbucks also countered against the complaint by stating that the company’s cups hold more liquid than the advertised number of ounces. Furthermore, the company says the fill-line is designed to indicate the level for cold milk, which expands when steamed into foam.
At a minimum, the Plaintiff’s contend that Starbucks negligently misrepresented or negligently omitted materials facts concerning the volume of the latte beverages.
This dismissal comes on the heels of a similar lawsuit where Starbucks was accused of under-filling iced beverages seeing that the ice took up a large percentage of the beverage’s total fluid volume. That class action lawsuit claimed that “Starbucks is misleading customers who expect to receive the advertised amount of fluid ounces.” Plaintiff’s used the analogy of filling up gas, “For example, if a gallon of gas is advertised as costing three dollars, and a customer pays three dollars and pumps gas, that customer is expecting to receive a gallon of gas — not approximately half a gallon.”
However, two federal judges failed to see the applicability of the gas analogy as separate lawsuits were dismissed in 2016 for the ice issue. The judges stated that reasonable customers would understand that ice counted towards drink contents. While these lawsuits may have been dismissed, there are strict rules that help protect consumers against misleading advertising and other deceptive practices.
Starbucks also has a company policy requiring their baristas to remake a drink if a customer is unhappy with their beverage.