Consumer Lawsuit Claims Reese's Pumpkins More Trick Than Treat in Yet Another False Advertising Claim
Hershey's Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins are at the heart of a new class action lawsuit where a Florida woman claims she was tricked into buying their product. Cynthia Kelly claims she purchased the Halloween candy at Aldi because she thought it featured “cute" jack-o'-lantern faces as shown on the packaging.
The image featured on the product packaging did not match the actual product. The packaging displays a pumpkin shape with carved-out artistic designs of a jack-o-lantern face. However, the candy is in a pumpkin shape with no carving or jack-o-lantern detail. She claims the product label misled her.
NPR reports that she has instituted the lawsuit claiming $5 million in damages. Her attorney, Anthony Russo, defends the amount of the lawsuit as a “reality check" against corporations that advertise one thing and deliver another.
The Hershey company, which produces the pumpkins, Reese's Peanut Butter Bats, and Reese's White Ghosts, has not commented.
What Is False Advertising?
False advertising is a civil wrong where a company makes an untrue, misleading, or deceptive statement or representation “knowingly or recklessly and with the intent to promote the sale of property, goods, or services to the public." This is different than “mere puffery," legal jargon for inflating claims or exaggerating benefits such that a consumer would know not to rely on the claims. An example of puffery is “World's Best Burger." A consumer will likely understand there is no global competition for the best burgers.
However, even if a consumer may not rely on a claim, a company may be liable for false advertising. Energy drink company Red Bull settled a class action lawsuit for $13 million when it was proved that Red Bull does not give you “wings." The plaintiffs did not sue because they thought they would get actual wings but understood the advertising to mean that the energy drink would enhance physical energy, for which there was no scientific proof.
Numerous consumers are now bringing similar lawsuits for false misrepresentation in advertising.
In March 2022, Attorney Russo filed a $5 million class action lawsuit for deceptive advertising of the Whopper. Burger King is accused of advertising images of their Whopper appearing larger than their competitors. However, their actual product contains less meat and fixings than their competition. A Florida judge granted a class action status to proceed against Burger King. Now Burger King must go before a jury and answer, “Where's the Beef?"
Attorney Russo is also behind a $5 million lawsuit against Taco Bell for false advertising filed in August 2023. The lawsuit claims the advertising of Taco Bell's food and the actual products are deceptively different. Court documents show photos of the advertised Supreme Crunchwrap and Mexican Pizzas next to pictures of the actual products, showing a dramatic difference.
$5 million lawsuits against candy bars, burgers, and Mexican food seem extreme. However, it brings attention to the issue of false advertising and purports to hold companies accountable. Russo told the Washington Post, “Little situations — what some would consider to be a little situation like this — could lead to unfettered behavior from big corporations."
There are many benefits to class action lawsuits. They allow many members to join their same or similar claims against one large defendant, so the class members don't have to file claims individually. They share in any judgment, less the legal fees. The benefit to the court system is that similar claims are heard at one time, providing efficient justice. The advantage to a defendant is that no other individual can make a similar claim once the court establishes class members.
A cynical person may say that the only ones benefiting from a class action lawsuit are the lawyers. However, the more attention these lawsuits bring, the more companies will realize that they must deliver what they promise in their advertising.
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