Plaintiff Daryl De Keczer filed a federal class action lawsuit against Tetley USA on behalf of all California consumers who purchased various tea products from the company over the past four years.
According to the lawsuit, Tetley falsely advertises its tea products as an “excellent” and “natural” source of antioxidants and “utilizes improper antioxidant, nutrient content, and health claims that have been expressly condemned by the FDA in numerous enforcement actions” against other companies that made similar antioxidant claims.
In addition, plaintiffs contend that Tetley inaccurately states on its Web site that the antioxidant in its tea “neutralizes free radicals that can cause cell damage linked to certain cancers”; helps fight heart disease; boosts the immune system and helps “reduce infections”; “lower[s] risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma”; reduces risk of stroke and protects lungs from cigarette damage; reduces risk of breast cancer; and “provide[s] a boost to exercise-induced weight loss.” Tetley is also accused of making unlawful claims on its product packaging, including: “Tetley Tea: the smart choice for your healthy lifestyle; Like fruits and vegetables, tea is an excellent source of natural antioxidants which help boost the body’s immune system. So, drink to your health with Tetley.” Not long ago, the FDA sent a warning letter to Unilever, the parent company of Lipton Tea, Tetley’s biggest competitor, for making similar claims about its tea products.
Based on these allegations, Plaintiff alleges that the advertising was deceptive, misleading and untrue and that Tetley violated several California laws: the unlawful business act and practices law, Business & Professions Code Section 17200; the Consumer Legal Remedies Act; the Song-Beverly Act; and the Magnuson-Moss Act. In addition to damages and restitution (based on unjust enrichment or disgorgement), plaintiffs seek an order requiring Tetley to cease and desist from selling misbranded tea products and enjoining Tetley from falsely advertising its products.
To read the class action complaint, click here.
Why it matters: The Tetley class action highlights the potential risks of making health claims associated with a marketer’s products. The ability to substantiate such claims is imperative to fend off class action lawsuits. Not only is it important to ensure truthful advertising campaigns, but it is equally important that product packaging and labels are not misbranded. Otherwise, marketers may find themselves backed into a corner by class counsel seeking to extort a windfall payday.