A federal court granted Starbucks’ motion for summary judgment in a putative class action in which plaintiffs alleged Starbucks underfills lattes and mochas. The plaintiffs alleged that the underfilling of Starbucks drinks was a breach of warranty and constituted unfair competition and false advertising based on three arguments: (1) consumers should receive beverage volume equal to the maximum cup capacity; (2) milk foam should not be counted toward beverage volume; and (3) barista pitchers and beverage card measurements do not add up to the promised beverage volume.
The court rejected all of these arguments due to contradictory evidence and unreliable studies. With regard to the argument about milk foam, the court determined that no reasonable consumer would be deceived into believing lattes contain promised beverage volume, excluding milk foam. The court also noted that Starbucks’ signage does not explicitly identify liquid measurements and that reasonable consumers understand lattes include milk foam. According to the court, just as consumers can increase the amount of their cold drink by ordering light or no ice, consumers are free to order light or no foam.
Takeaway: This is one of a handful of cases filed last year regarding beverage volumes in which courts have been less sympathetic to plaintiffs that distill false advertising disputes down to frivolous technicalities. Advertisers should instead focus on ensuring their practices satisfy a reasonable consumer standard.