Asserting that competitor Armand de Brignac falsely claimed that its champagnes are “Rated the No. 1 Champagne in the World,” Moet Hennessy filed suit in federal court.

Moet, the maker of Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot, alleges the claim is literally false. Only one of Armand’s champagnes – Brut Gold – has ever been ranked first by Fine Champagne Magazine and that occurred in 2010, Moet says, and none of Armand’s other champagnes have ever been rated number one. Since 2010, the company has not had a champagne rank higher than No. 22, according to the complaint.

Armand has used the claim in false comparative advertising specifically targeting Moet’s Dom Perignon, the suit contends. On social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, as well as other promotional materials, Armand states that Brut Gold is ranked No. 1 and Dom Perignon No. 2, without a disclosure that this ranking was limited to a 2010 test.

Moet already complained to Armand directly with a cease and desist letter and was told that the company changed its advertising and added a disclaimer limiting the claim to the year 2010. However, the false comparative ad is still being used in the United States and internationally, Moet says, and the “No. 1” claim can be found on Armand’s many social media sites, advertising materials, promotional materials, and product packaging. While a disclaimer was added to the homepage of Armand’s Web site, Moet argues that the “inconspicuous footnote fails to cure Armand’s deception” and “may not even be visible to certain website visitors, depending on their browser settings.”

Armand’s use of the false statement also violates the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, according to the complaint, because the company does not have “good reason to believe that the endorser continues to subscribe to the views presented.” Fine Champagne Magazine clearly no longer subscribes to the view that Brut Gold is the No. 1 champagne as the rankings have changed each year since 2010, Moet argues.

Moet demands that Armand be enjoined from continuing to make the “No. 1” claim and ordered to recall all bottles on which the allegedly false claims are stated. Monetary damages should also be awarded and trebled for Armand’s intentional conduct.

To read the complaint in Moet Hennessy v. Ace of Spades, click here.

Why it matters: Advertisers who wish to use magazine rankings, ratings, and/or reviews to support #1 claims should take care to communicate to consumers any limitations contained in the ratings. Advertisers who tout themselves as being #1 on ratings or rankings that are not current may face claims of false advertising.