CHICAGO (CN) — A consumer class claims Starbucks’ cold drinks are almost half ice and the coffee chain misrepresents the fluid ounces of its popular, and profitable, iced coffee and tea beverages.
Lead plaintiff Stacey Pincus filed a class action against Starbucks Corp. in Northern Illinois Federal Court on Wednesday.
Starbucks, the largest coffee retailer in the world, makes a good deal of its money on cold coffee and tea drinks prepared in-store. In 2014, shaken iced tea drinks were the most profitable menu addition of the year, according to Pincus’ lawsuit.
The company offers three sizes of drinks — Tall, Grande, Venti and Trenta — which correspond to 12, 16, 24 and 30 fluid ounces, respectively. These fluid ounce measurements are advertised in the store.
However, Pincus says that Starbucks customers who order cold drinks are actually getting far less than the advertised fluid ounces because the company fills a large portion of the cup with ice.
“A Starbucks customer who orders a Venti cold drink receives only 14 fluid ounces of that drink — just over half the advertised amount, and just over half the amount for which they are paying,” the 29-page complaint states. “In the iced coffee example, a Starbucks customer who orders and pays for a Venti iced coffee, expecting to receive 24 fluid ounces of iced coffee based on Starbucks’ advertisement and marketing, will instead receive only about 14 fluid ounces of iced coffee.” (Emphasis in original.)
Further, Starbucks charges more for cold drinks than for comparable hot drinks, despite giving cold-drink customers less of the product than hot-drink customers; in this way, Starbucks makes higher profits off its cold beverages, Pincus claims.
“In essence, Starbucks is advertising the size of its cold drink cups on its menu, rather than the amount of fluid a customer will receive when they purchase a cold drink — and deceiving its customers in the process,” the class-action lawsuit states.
Pincus suggests that Starbucks could serve its cold drinks in larger cups that would allow room to pour the advertised amount of beverage in the cup and still have room for ice.
Pincus seeks to represent a class of all persons who purchased a cold drink from Starbucks in the last 10 years. She accuses Starbucks of breach of express warranty, breach of implied warrant of merchantability, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment and fraud.
The class is represented by Steven Hart with Hart, McLaughlin & Eldridge in Chicago.
Starbucks spokesperson Jaime Riley told Courthouse News, “We are aware of the plaintiff’s claims, which we fully believe to be without merit. Our customers understand and expect that ice is an essential component of any ‘iced’ beverage. If a customer is not satisfied with their beverage preparation, we will gladly remake it.”
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