Vitaminwater Settlement Scorecard: Consumers $0, Class-Action Lawyers $1.2 Million
MADISON, CONN., October 21, 2014 — A proposed vitaminwater class-action settlement is of little benefit to consumers who have been deceived by Coca-Cola’s marketing, according to an analysis by consumer advocacy organization, truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org). Class members in Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, and the Virgin Islands will soon be subject to this settlement that awards attorneys $1.2 million while leaving consumers empty-handed. TINA.org is urging class members who were deceived to have their voices heard and object to it by the Nov. 3 deadline.
“TINA.org’s analysis of the settlement reveals that it’s a raw deal for consumers. This agreement simply pays off the class-action lawyers to make the whole case vanish,” says TINA.org’s Executive Director Bonnie Patten.
With product names such as “Defense” and “Revive,” Glacéau, a Coca-Cola subsidiary, made broad health claims that its sugary drink could reduce the risk of eye disease, promote healthy joints, as well as support optimal immune function. Multiple class-action lawsuits were filed across the country on behalf of consumers who allege that they were deceived by the beverage name and advertising suggesting that the product is a healthy alternative to soda. In one suit, a federal judge rejected Coca-Cola’s defense that no reasonable consumer could be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage (despite the fact that most of its advertising is saying exactly that).
Coca-Cola has now agreed to settle five of these lawsuits, which have been consolidated in an Ohio court (others are still pending). In settling, the company is trying to give consumers the impression that it is making substantial changes to its marketing in exchange for the class dropping its lawsuit when, in reality, all it is really doing is paying off the attorneys involved to the tune of $1.2 million.
Unlike the widely publicized $13 million Red Bull deceptive advertising settlement, which allows consumers who bought the product to get a cash refund, Coca-Cola is not providing any reimbursement to consumers in this settlement.