(CN) - Beer manufacturer Anheuser-Busch must pay $3.5 million in attorneys' fees after a magistrate ruled it deceived consumers of one of its brands, Beck's, into believing the beer is brewed in Germany, when it is actually in the United States.
In October 2013, Francisco Rene Marty filed the class action against Anheuser-Busch claiming the beverage giant "committed unfair and deceptive practices" in order to deceive consumers into Beck's beer is still imported from Germany."
Marty claimed the Beck's beer label still bears the phrases "Originated in Germany" and "German Quality," and that Anheuser-Busch sold Beck's at prices substantially higher than those of domestic beer, "despite the fact that the beer is brewed in the United States with domestic ingredients."
U.S. Magistrate Judge John O'Sullivan ruled on Oct. 22 that the settlement class consisted of "all consumers who purchased Beck's Beer in the United States for personal, family, or household purposes and not for re-sale from May 1, 2011 through June 23, 2015." This includes Beck's Pilsner, Beck's Dark, Beck's Light, and Beck's Oktoberfest beer.
O'Sullivan awarded original plaintiff Francisco Rene Marty and two others who joined the case later,, Seth Goldman and Fernando Marquet, contribution awards at $5,000 each.
Kozyak, Tropin, & Throckmorton P.A. represented the plaintiffs.
Tucker Ronzetti, one of the attorneys, told Courthouse News, "We're very pleased with the settlement. There are potentially 1.7 million households that can make claims. The claims process is a very simple process. ...There is also mandated injunctive relief that will ensure there is no deception or confusion about where Beck's is brewed."
Anheuser-Busch denied the claims and charges, and believes that its labeling, packaging, and marketing of Beck's Beer have always been truthful and not deceptive.
In a written statement, Katherine Barrett, vice president and U.S. General Counsel for Anheuser-Busch said "Under the Beck's labeling settlement agreement, consumers can submit claims for up to $12 per household without a receipt, or up to $50 with receipt.
"It's too early to project the final settlement amount, which is subject to the number of claims and won't be known for several weeks," Barrett continued. "It's certainly possible that the $3.5 million fee collected by the plaintiffs' attorneys will outsize the benefit paid to consumers, an outcome that is increasingly more common in class action suits such as this."
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