Burger King, McDonalds, Taco Bell and Wendy’s among fast food chains hit by 375% increase in class action lawsuits over false advertising as legal expert says they have crossed the line from ‘puffery’ into ‘deceit’
- Many of America’s best known brands face multi-million dollar lawsuits over claims they mislead customers
- Comes after Dr Pepper agreed a $15million settlement for wrongly claiming its synthetically flavored soda was ‘made with aged vanilla’
Lawyers have warned fast food companies that angry consumers will be feasting on their profits unless they stop misleading the public about their products.
Burger King, Taco Bell and McDonalds could face multi-million dollar payouts from a growing wave of lawsuits targeting some of America’s best-known brands.
It comes after drinks firm A&W and Keurig Dr Pepper agreed to pay out $15 million in July over cans labelled ‘made with aged vanilla’ when the soda inside actually used synthetic flavoring.
And Buffalo Wild Wings are being sued in Chicago over its boneless chicken wings that are not made from deboned chicken wings.
‘There’s a legal line. When is it puffery and when is it deceit?’ said marketing professor Jeff Galak, of Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.
Burger King has countered that it wasn’t required to deliver burgers that look ‘exactly like the picture’. A restaurant in Daly City, California, is pictured here
Claimants in New York have submitted photos of the Veggie Mexican Pizzas they have been served (right) as well as the adverts that persuaded them to buy
Buffalo Wild Wings insists that customers are not misled by its ‘boneless chicken wings’ not being made from chicken wings
‘Companies are always trying to ride right up against that line.’
Class actions against food and drink companies have soared from 45 in 2010, to 214 last year, mostly for false advertising or misleading consumers.
Last week a Miami judge gave plaintiffs the go-ahead to sue Burger King for $5million over claims it portrayed its Whopper burgers as 35 per cent larger in advertisements than they are in reality.
US District Judge Roy Altman said that the company must defend the claim and that it was up to jurors to ‘tell us what reasonable people think.’
But he warned the plaintiffs that television or online adverts do not amount to a ‘binding offer’ if they do not list a price or product information.
A Burger King spokesperson told DailyMail.com: ‘The plaintiffs’ claims are false. The flame-grilled beef patties portrayed in our advertising are the same patties used in the millions of Whopper sandwiches we serve to Guests nationwide.’
McDonald’s and Wendy’s are defending against a similar lawsuit in the Brooklyn, New York federal court.
And Taco Bell, a unit of Yum Brands, was sued last month in the Brooklyn court for selling Crunchwraps and Mexican pizzas that allegedly contain only half as much filling as advertised.
The lawsuit seeks at least $5 million for Taco Bell customers who bought the items in New York state in the last three years.
Ben Michael, a criminal defense attorney in Austin, Texas, said the recent wave of inflation may have tempted companies to cut corners by cutting portion sizes.
‘Unfortunately, many businesses make these changes without consulting their marketing department or updating their menus to represent new portion sizes and ingredients,’ he told CBS.
‘This leaves them open to the kinds of lawsuits we’ve been seeing more of.’
But some companies have struck back at the lawsuits, including Dunkin’ which successfully fought off a 2020 case that accused the company of deception over its claims its wraps contained Angus steak, rather than just ground meat.
Buffalo Wild Wings is being sued over its boneless chicken wings, and Taco Bell is being sued over its Mexican pizza, veggie Mexican pizza, crunchwrap supreme, grande crunchwrap and vegan crunchwrap
Drinks firm A&W and Keurig Dr Pepper agreed to pay out $15 million in July over cans labelled ‘made with aged vanilla’ when the soda inside actually used synthetic flavoring.
Wendy’s is being sued over its Bourbon Bacon Cheeseburger and McDonalds is being sued over its Big Mac
Buffalo Wild Wings struck a defiant note over the lawsuit
And Buffalo Wild Wings ridiculed its accusers demanding it say what is in its products.
‘It’s true,’ they tweeted.
‘Our boneless wings are all white meat chicken. Our hamburgers contain no ham.
‘Our buffalo wings are 0% buffalo.’