Puritan’s Pride, Inc., deceived consumers with a “buy one, get one free”-style marketing campaign for its supplements, a new putative class action filed in California federal court alleged.

Although consumers were told that if they purchased one or more products they would receive additional items for free, the defendant built the cost of the “free products” into the price of the products being purchased, Meg Larson and Diane Cabrera said. For example, Larson claimed that she made multiple purchases of items such as garcinia cambogia and vitamin D3 using the buy one, get two free offer and paid a premium price for the one item to cover the cost of the two purportedly free ones.

“Defendants engage in the … systemic and continuous practices of disseminating false, deceptive, and misleading information about the Products via an extensive and comprehensive nationwide marketing campaign, consisting of internet postings, blast emails, targeted emails,” and other media, which is “intended to induce unsuspecting consumers, including Plaintiffs and members of the Class, into purchasing millions of dollars worth of Puritan’s Pride branded Products at a premium price,” the plaintiffs alleged.

Adding to the misleading advertising, Puritan’s Pride misrepresented that the buy something, get something free promotion was available only for a limited time, the complaint alleged, with statements such as “SEMI-ANNUAL EVENT … BUY 2 GET 3 FREE” or “THE BEST SALE OF THE YEAR IS BACK! BUY 1 GET 2 FREE.” In fact, the promotion was ongoing.

“Defendants conceal that their marketing and advertising campaign promising ‘free’ Products is permanent, and intend to induce consumers to make expedited purchases by falsely representing that they can only obtain ‘free’ products if they act quickly,” according to the plaintiffs. “There has been no time in the preceding four years when Defendants were not purportedly giving Products away for ‘free’ under the promotion.”

The plaintiffs alleged violations of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law and Unfair Competition Law, and requested injunctive relief and monetary damages (including disgorgement and restitution) for a class of California consumers dating back four years.

To read the complaint in Larson v. Puritan’s Pride, Inc., click here.

Why it matters: Consumers (and plaintiffs’ attorneys) have recently turned their attention to price advertising, beginning with class actions against outlet stores, accusing them of misleading pricing. Lawsuits targeting promotional deals like Puritan’s Pride’s buy one, get two free could be the next wave.