Clever packaging panels deceive consumers, claims class action

Ready-to-Air

The Chakalaka. The Bang Bang Chicken. The Green Goddess Turkey Wrap. Are these sandwiches the innocent and delicious Pret A Manger products that they appear to be? Or are they sinister Trojan horses for pockets of air, aided and abetted by clever packaging?

Most emphatically the latter, states a class action brought by Yee Ting Lau, a customer at one of the company’s countless sandwich stores in Manhattan.

Ms. Lau’s complaint alleges that the Chakalaka and several of its sister wraps are cleverly shrouded in semiopaque packaging whose cardboard panels conceal slack-fill space between the halves of the wraps. When consumers grab one, they believe that they’re about to enjoy a sandwich that is bigger than it actually is.

Ms. Lau’s action was filed at the end of July in the Southern District of New York, only a month after her fateful trip to a Madison Avenue Pret A Manger in June.

Her action alleges that the wraps are filled with nonfunctional slack-fill space, and that members of the class – either consumers who purchased the allegedly deceitful wraps nationwide or, more narrowly, in New York – reasonably relied on the company’s deceptive representations when grabbing a seemingly hearty lunch. She seeks on behalf of the class to enjoin the use of nonfunctional slack fill in the offending packages under New York and federal law, and to obtain compensatory and punitive damages.

The Takeaway

As we have reported previously, the number of slack-fill cases has been growing recently – all told, the number of filings has increased six fold since 2013.

Ms. Lau’s action, filed in New York, is part of an uptick in filings in that state’s Eastern and Southern Districts; perhaps these jurisdictions will one day compete with the Northern District of California – the so-called food court – where more than a third of slack-fill suits originate.