On Friday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed a class-action lawsuit against Starbucks. The class alleged a violation of Illinois’ Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, among other claims. Specifically, the class alleged that Starbucks is engaging in unfair acts and practices by advertising the size of its cups on its menu, instead of the amount of fluid a customer will receive when they select an iced beverage. The heart of the class’s claims is that if Starbucks advertises an “iced” drink as containing 24 fluid ounces, the drink should have 24 ounces of fluid plus ice.
The court noted that regarding the “iced” part of the name of the cold drinks at issue in this case, the drinks are served “over ice” or “with ice” and the ingredients list includes ice on the menus online. An example of the disclosures on Starbucks website is found here:
To prove an injury, plaintiffs must show that a reasonable consumer would be deceived by the advertising messages made by Starbucks. The court concluded no deception could occur because a reasonable consumer would notice that the menus separately list the contents of the drinks and the size of the containers the drinks are served in and that the fluid ounces disclosed refers to the volume, as opposed to the drink contents.
TAKEAWAY: Advertisers are only responsible for all reasonable advertising messages conveyed. Importantly, some of these messages may include messages the advertiser did not intend to convey, but that a reasonable consumer could take away.