Class action complaints alleging false advertising run the gamut of products and services, and recent lawsuits filed across the country bear this principle out, with cases challenging everything from oatmeal to home security systems.
A Florida resident filed suit against ADT Corporation in federal court, asserting that the largest residential and small business electronic security provider in the country deceptively markets its equipment and monitoring systems as safe and reliable, using claims such as "We Save Lives," "Get Security You Can Count On. Every Day of the Year," and "ADT takes pride in using the most advanced technology."
"In truth, ADT's wireless signals are anything but safe and reliable, as the wireless signals are both unencrypted and unauthenticated, and can easily be intercepted and interfered with by unauthorized third parties," according to Santiago Hernandez's complaint. "As such, ADT's customers are far more vulnerable and less safe than ADT leads them to believe."
According to the complaint, all it takes to hack the ADT system is a simple and inexpensive device that can enable a third party to see transmissions from ADT's sensors, track when people are opening and closing doors, manipulate the system by falsely triggering an alarm, jam the system so that alarms are not triggered, and remotely disconnect or disable security systems.
ADT was aware of the vulnerability of its customers, Hernandez added, but the company turned "a blind eye" to its problems and failed to notify consumers that its signals are unencrypted and unsecure. "ADT's misleading marketing statements and omissions are particularly egregious given that they provide a false sense of security to those individuals and businesses that are most vulnerable: individuals and businesses who are seeking the comfort of an extra level of security that a home security system provides," the plaintiff said.
The defendant's misrepresentations violated Florida's consumer protection law, Hernandez alleged, requesting declaratory and injunctive relief requiring ADT to change its marketing materials, secure customers' wireless systems, and pay damages to an estimated class of hundreds of thousands of consumers.
As for Darren Eisenlord's oatmeal, he claimed in a putative class action in California federal court that Quaker Oats Company's labels for six different types of oatmeal—featuring the image of a maple syrup jug and the words "maple and brown sugar" prominently displayed—tricked him into purchasing what he thought was oatmeal flavored with maple and brown sugar but didn't actually contain any maple syrup or maple sugar.
Maple syrup and maple sugar are premium ingredients that companies add to sweeten food products, according to the complaint, with a material bearing on consumers' purchasing decisions. Maple is also a substance derived from the heat treatment of sap from the maple tree, Eisenlord added, and none of the defendant's products qualify as maple syrup under this definition.
This deceptive labeling constituted a breach of express warranty and violations of various California laws, including the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, the False Advertising Law, and the Unfair Competition Law, as well as both the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and its state analogue, the plaintiff said. Requesting that the court certify a nationwide class and a subclass of California residents who purchased the Quaker Oats oatmeal products during the previous four years, Eisenlord asked for actual damages, an injunction, and disgorgement of profits.
To read the complaint in Hernandez v. The ADT Corporation, click here.
To read the complaint in Eisenlord v. The Quaker Oats Company, click here.
Why it matters: False advertising lawsuits remain a popular consumer class action fixture with no signs of abating, challenging products and services ranging from home security systems to oatmeal.