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Coca-Cola Sued Over Deceptive Marketing

By George Khoury, Esq. on January 06, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A recently filed lawsuit in the Northern District of California Federal Court alleges that Coca-Cola engaged in unfair and deceptive marketing practices in an effort to mislead consumers. While there is no claim of tampering with the results of the Coke Versus Pepsi challenge results, the lawsuit does claim that the beverage-maker intentionally downplayed the harmful health effects of sugar in their advertising. Additionally, the suit alleges that Coca-Cola has deliberated focused marketing on children despite having pledged not to do so.

This case is part of the larger war on sugar. Makers of sugar-sweetened beverages, and food products that needlessly contain high-fructose corn syrup, have found themselves coming under increased scrutiny over the past decade as a result of the relatively new found public awareness of the dangers of sugar. The organization that filed suit specifically stated when asked about Pepsi, that they were not sued because Pepsi doesn't misrepresent the effects of sugar to consumers.

The War on Sugar

In case you haven't heard, sugar is bad for you. Like, really bad for you. Calories that a person ingests in the form of sugar, and particularly sugar sweetened drinks, are different than other calories. The obesity epidemic, as well as the high incidence of childhood-diabetes, both have been linked to these delicious, and apparently dangerous, beverages.

Coca-Cola is alleged to have attempted to mislead consumers into thinking that their beverages were healthier than they really are, and that a little extra exercise would take care of the calories from their drink. One specific ad campaign that is coming under fire is the "140 happy calories per can" ad campaign. This campaign highlighted the false notion that all that a consumer needed to do was exercise a little more, and the calories from the Coca-Cola wouldn't matter.

Who Can Sue for False Advertising Claims?

For an individual wants to sue for false advertising, generally, they will need to show: 1) they experienced the false advertising; 2) they acted based upon the reasonable belief that the false ad was true; 3) they were harmed (experienced a loss).

Nearly every state has specific laws that deal with false advertising and deceptive business practices that allow consumers to either file lawsuits directly, or file with an administrative agency. Frequently, false advertising claims are brought by non-profit consumer protection organizations, or industry competitors.

On the federal level, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is known for coming after both big and small businesses for deceptive advertising.

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