Germanophiles Must Amend Beck’s Challenge

     (CN) – Drinkers of Beck’s beer must amend claims that Anheuser-Busch markets the St. Louis, Mo.-brewed beer as a German import, a federal judge ruled.
     Francisco Rene Marty and others hope to represent a class against Anheuser-Busch for allegedly keeping consumers in the dark when it moved Beck’s brewery operations to St. Louis in 2012. Prior to that change, Beck’s had been brewed in Germany where it originated in 1873.
     In its motion to dismiss, A-B noted that the challenged label states uses phrases like “Originated in Germany,” “German Quality,” and “Brewed Under the German Purity Law of 1516.”
     None of those statements make any representation concerning the location where Beck’s is brewed, and indeed the labels on cans or bottles of Beck’s say “Product of USA, Brauerei Beck & Co., St. Louis, MO,” the company argued.
     The bottom of every carton says “BRAUEREI BECK & CO., BECK’S © BEER, ST. LOUIS, MO,” A-B added.
     U.S. Magistrate Judge John O’Sullivan noted in a Friday opinion that he examined the products and found “that the ‘Product of USA’ disclaimer as printed on the actual cans and bottles themselves is difficult to read.”
     “More importantly, the ‘Product of USA’ disclaimer is blocked by the carton,” he added. “A consumer would have to either open the cartons of twelve-pack bottles and twelve-pack cans or lift the bottle from the six-pack carton in order to see the ‘Product of USA’ disclaimer.”
     As for the carton label, “a reasonable consumer may not necessarily look at the underside of the carton in deciding whether to purchase a product,” the 45-page decision states.
     O’Sullivan also found that the “German Purity Law” and “German Quality” statements may be misleading.
     He nevertheless dismissed the case for alleging only past injury.
     “The amended complaint fails to allege facts showing that the plaintiffs will likely face a real or immediate threat of future injury,” the ruling states.
     O’Sullivan found no allegation in the amended complaint “that the plaintiffs will purchase Beck’s again in the future if appropriately labeled and there are no express allegations either that the plaintiffs have stopped purchasing Beck’s or that they have continued to purchase Beck’s despite the alleged misrepresentations.”
     “The amended complaint does allege that the plaintiffs were ‘willing to pay a premium for Beck’s Beer because of [the defendant’s] representations and omissions, and would not have purchased, would not have paid as much for the products, or would have purchased alternative products in absence of these representations and omissions,'” he added (emphasis in original). “The only logical inference from this allegation is that the plaintiffs no longer purchase Beck’s. Because there are no allegations in the amended complaint that the plaintiffs would purchase Beck’s in the future, the undersigned finds that the plaintiffs have failed to plead a ‘real and immediate threat of future injury,’ … and thus have failed to plead standing to seek injunctive relief.”
     The plaintiffs may file a second amended complaint by Sept. 19.

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