According to Food Litigation News, a court in New York granted preliminary approval of a settlement last month relating to a class action lawsuit that alleged false advertising of its energy drinks.
Pursuant to the proposed settlement, all persons in the USA who purchased at least one Red Bull beverage dating from January 1, 2002 who submitted a valid claim could receive either a $10 reimbursement or free Red Bull products to be selected by the class member up to a $15 retail value. Red Bull would cover shipping costs of the products.
According to the terms of the settlement (PDF), the Defendant would establish a settlement fund of $13 million in cash and free products. Any remnants would be disbursed first in pro rata shares to any valid claimants, or if the remainder is less than $100,000, then it would be distributed in cy près to a charitable organization “mutually agreed upon by the parties.”
The class action suit was brought in January 2013 by Benjamin Careathers in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking to represent all individuals who have purchased the energy drink.
Red Bull offered the following statement in relation to the settlement: “Red Bull settled the lawsuit to avoid the cost and distraction of litigation. However, Red Bull maintains that its marketing and labeling have always been truthful and accurate, and denies any and all wrongdoing or liability.”
Careathers said he had been drinking Red Bull since 2002. The suit argues that Red Bull misleads consumers about the superiority of its products with its slogan “Red Bull gives you wings” and its claims of increased performance, concentration and reaction speed, to name a few.
This deception is proliferated through the company’s advertising on television, the Internet, social media and events, athlete endorsers, glossy print brochures, marketing campaigns and its slogan-promoting Red Bull Flugtag series, according to the suit.
“Such deceptive conduct and practices mean that [Red Bull’s] advertising and marketing is not just ‘puffery,’ but is instead deceptive and fraudulent and is therefore actionable,” the suit says.
The class action cites articles by The New York Times, Nutrition Reviews and the European Food Safety Authority Journal, which indicate that energy drinks provide their boost through caffeine alone, not guarana or any other ingredient.
The suit says that a 7 oz. cup of drip coffee contains approximately 115 to 175 milligrams of caffeine, depending on the blend, and a 12 oz. serving of Starbucks coffee costs $1.85 and “would contain far more caffeine than a regular serving of Red Bull.” An 8.4 oz. can of Red Bull contains 80 milligrams of caffeine.
“Even though there is a lack of genuine scientific support for a claim that Red Bull branded energy drinks provide any more benefit to a consumer than a cup of coffee, the Red Bull defendants persistently and pervasively market their product as a superior source of ‘energy’ worthy of a premium price over a cup of coffee or other sources of caffeine,” the suit says.
Despite Red Bull’s denial of wrongdoing, the company has voluntarily withdrawn and revised marketing claims challenged in court, according to the plaintiff’s motion.
A web site has been established for consumers of Red Bull who wish to make a claim. The lawyers in the case are expected to receive up to US$4.75 million for their work.
Social media is abuzz with comments on this story. On Reddit, opinions are mixed, with some claiming that the lawsuit was bogus and spurious, while others seem interested in getting their free Red Bull as part of the settlement.
"Red Bull, you have gotten me through so many long double shifts. You've given me the strength to get my ass out the door and to the bar on a friday night. Then you've graced me with fortitude to look that hangover in the face and get the day's shit done. Here, have ten of MY dollars."
"Or just keep their ten dollars because I refuse to participate in this imbecile's lawsuit. Being sued over 'gives you wings' was my joke reaction to the headline so I clicked the link to see what it was really over... and he really did sue them for it. F**k these guys and their frivolous lawsuits."
"I'm not going to join this lawsuit, either, as I feel like the product does what it claims to do: it makes me feel less tired and/or more energetic.
I drink coffee pretty much every day. Red Bull works for me when coffee alone simply isn't cutting it. I think there really is something to be said about the additional herbs and vitamins in it. The only time I'll go for an energy drink is when I'm extra tired (usually due to sleep deprivation) , and Red Bull is the only energy drink I drink. They can keep their ten bucks."
"Free red bull for buying red bull. Sweet."