In March 2016, Siera Strumlauf and Benjamin Robles filed a class-action lawsuit against Starbucks claiming the company was under-filling lattes. In April, another lawsuit was filed for under-filling iced coffees. According to “The Washington Post,” on June 17, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson provided a 14-page ruling in favor of the plaintiffs.
Reports indicate that Starbucks altered their standardized practices in 2009 to save money on milk. As a result of these changes, latte customers began receiving 25 percent less beverage. Additionally, the company increased the amount of ice used in iced coffees, which has resulted in customer’s receiving 50 percent less beverage.
“Atlanta Journal Constitution” reported that Starbucks knowingly and systematically falsely advertised their beverages to be larger than they really were. Starbucks has saved a countless amount of money related to their cost of goods and was unjustly enriched by receiving payment for more product than they delivered. It has been argued that the cups are not big enough to contain the quantity of beverage based on the size listed in company’s menu. These details have forced Starbucks to face lawsuits for under-filling lattes and iced coffees.
This reality has provided enough evidence to warrant the further progression of this case. It is alleged, Starbucks has violated consumer laws and is guilty of negligent misrepresentation and fraud. The same issue has been brought up with the company’s iced coffees because the ice displaces the fluid, which only provides the customers with half of what they paid for.
“The New York Times” addresses the fact there were initially eight counts brought against the company, but Judge Henderson dismissed three of the counts. Judge Henderson was in support of the other five counts, because the plaintiff’s attorneys presented theories which argued the frothy milk added to the latte should not be factored into the total volume of the beverage, but the volume should be considered prior to the milk added, or the volume of the beverage after it has cooled.
Starbucks main argument is a “reasonable customer” would not have been misled. Additionally, they stand by the work of their employees and insist the beverages are made to the customer’s wishes. If a customer is not satisfied with their beverage, the company claims a replacement will be made immediately.
When people make a purchase, they expect to get what they paid for. Strumlauf and Robles argued their prepared beverage should fill their cup, because once the froth cools the customers are left with significantly less fluid in their cup. In 2009, at the time Starbucks made companywide changes, this event coincided with the beginning of the global recession.
Reports indicate that several businesses began to charge customers for slightly less product, but in recent years some of these businesses have returned their products to their original size and price since the economy has rebounded. The reason Starbucks lawsuit has merit is the fact the deception was a systematic policy change, which resulted in short-changing their customers for years.
The issue with the iced coffee lawsuit may result in another company policy change. Customers deserve to receive what they pay for. It is clear this case will take some time to reach a resolution because Starbucks continues to defend their business practices.
The company plans to fight this in court if necessary. This could be a costly lesson for Starbucks to learn because the systematic aspect of this suit implies it occurs to every customer who purchased any latte, or iced coffee around the world. It is the lawsuits which has forced Starbucks to face the accusations about under-filling lattes and iced coffee.
By Kristina Lasher
Edited by Cathy Milne
The Washington Post: Latte lawsuit against Starbucks survives first judicial sip
Atlanta Journal Constitution: Lawsuit against Starbucks for underfilling lattes will continue
The New York Times: Judge Allows Lawsuit Claiming Starbucks Underfills Lattes
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