Gerber named in class action lawsuit over false and captive advertising of its Good Start baby product

The complaint alleges a pattern of deceptive and unfair business practices by Gerber Products Company in the marketing and sale of Good Start, a line of infant formula made with whey-protein concentrate that Defendant produces, distributes, markets, and sells.

The Complaint challenging deceptive and misleading representations that Defendant made in promoting and selling Good Start. Beginning in 2011, Defendant has claimed in advertising and product labeling that: (a) Good Start is the first and only formula whose consumption reduces the risk of infants developing allergies, and (b) Good Start is the first and only formula that the United States Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) endorses to reduce the risk of developing certain allergies, such as atopic dermatitis.

Due to Defendant’s deceptive representations that Good Start provided health benefits beyond the benefits other baby formulas offered, and Defendant’s misleading representations that the FDA had unqualifiedly certified its health claims, Plaintiff and the Class were injured by purchasing Good Start at an inflated cost.

Quaker Oats (PepsiCo) and others accused of mislabeling products by Maple Syrup Producers’ Associations — Investigation opened

Quaker Oats

A consortium of Maple associations asked the FDA to take enforcement actions against a variety of companies that use the terms maple but whose product does not contain any. This misbranded group of products generally declares “maple” on their packaging as a characterizing ingredient even where maple syrup is not actually present in the product.

As claimed by the association, the term “maple” has long been used and understood to refer to “maple syrup.” Maple syrup, a premium ingredient, has a material bearing on the price and/or consumer acceptance of food products that contain it, which is why it is frequently an ingredient named in the title properly labeled to prevent consumer confusion.

As further claimed by the Associations, this unchecked misbranding has an adverse impact on manufacturers of products containing real maple syrup, as it allows cheaper products not containing premium ingredients to compete with those actually containing maple syrup. Further, it deceives consumers into believing they are purchasing a premium product when, in fact, they have a product of substantially lower quality.

The letter requests the FDA take enforcement actions to stop the misbranding of this class of products, either by removing the maple branding from the packaging, or by adding maple syrup – a substance derived from the heat treatment of sap from the maple tree of foods or displayed on its packaging. Thus, if a product name includes “maple,” or its packaging emphasizes the presence of maple (e.g., through vignettes of maple syrup, leaves, and trees), but the product does not actually contain any maple syrup, it is unlawfully misbranded under this regulation.

The letter called out the following products as using the term maple without having maple as an ingredient.

MOM Brands’ Better Oats Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal with Flax

Madhava Natural Sweeteners Maple Agave Nectar

Honey Stinger Organic Maple Waffle

Quaker Oats Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal

Quaker Oats Maple & Brown Sugar High Fiber Instant Oatmeal

GU Maple Bacon Energy Gel

Quaker Oats Maple Pecan Raisin Flavored Oatmeal

Hood Ice Cream Maple Walnut

 

Have you consumed any of these products? Have you consumed other products labeled as containing maple only to find out it contained none?  Please share your story with us or contact us directly to inquire about your legal rights.

 

 

Payday lenders Red Cedar Services Inc. and SFS Inc. pay fines and waive fees to settle lawsuit by FTC

Cash big

Two payday lenders have settled Federal Trade Commission charges that they illegally charged consumers across the country undisclosed and inflated fees. Red Cedar Services Inc. and SFS Inc., have each paid $2.2 million and collectively waived $68 million in fees to consumers that were not collected. Red Cedar and SFS operated under the trade names 500 Fast Cash and One Click Cash, respectively.

The settlements arose from lawsuits filed by the FTC in April 2012 alleging that the lenders and others misrepresented how much loans would cost consumers, in violation of the FTC Act. For example, a contract used by Red Cedar, AMG Services and MNE Services stated that a $300 loan would cost $390 to repay, but they charged consumers $975.

The lawsuit also alleged that the companies failed to accurately disclose the annual percentage rate and other loan terms, in violation of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), and made preauthorized debits from consumers’ bank accounts a condition of the loans, in violation of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA).

The stipulated final federal court orders for Red Cedar and SFS also prohibit those defendants from misrepresenting the terms of any loan product, including the payment schedule and interest rate, the total amount the consumer will owe, annual percentage rates or finance charges, and any other material facts. The orders also bar defendants from violating the TILA and the EFTA.

YZ Enterprises named in class action lawsuit for labeling products all natural despite containing known synthetic ingredients

This class action arises out of Defendant YZ Enterprise’s deceptive marketing of its Almondina Toastees. The product’s label  represents that it is “All Natural” despite the fact it contains sodium acid pyrophosphate, a synthetic chemical that is used to remove iron stains in leather products, is used as an oil drilling fluid, and is used to de-feather poultry-and that the FDA has said has no place in purported “all natural” products.

Knowing that consumers like Plaintiff are more-and-more interested in purchasing healthy food products that do not contain potentially harmful synthetic ingredients, YZ Enterprises has sought to take advantage of this growing market by labeling certain products as “all natural.” By affixing such a label to the packaging of the product, Defendant is able to entice consumers like Plaintiff to pay a premium for supposed the “all natural” products.

 

Urban Accents named in class action lawsuit for labeling products all natural despite containing known synthetic ingredients

This case arises out of Defendant Urban Accents Inc.’s deceptive marketing of its Ginger Carrot Cake Flapjack Mix. The mix’s label prominently represents that it is “All Natural” despite the fact it contains sodium acid pyrophosphate, a synthetic chemical that is used to remove iron stains in leather products, is used as an oil drilling fluid, and is used to de-feather poultry-and that the FDA has said has no place in purported “all natural” products.

Knowing that consumers like Plaintiff are more-and-more interested in purchasing healthy food products that do not contain potentially harmful synthetic ingredients, Urban Accents has sought to take advantage of this growing market by labeling certain products as “all natural.” By affixing such a label to the packaging of the Mix, Defendant is able to entice consumers like Plaintiff to pay a premium for supposed the “all natural” products.


			

Lenovo named in class action lawsuit over installation of Superfish software in its laptops

This class action is brought on behalf of purchasers of Lenovo laptop computers and seeks to redress the deliberate and virtually unprecedented actions of Lenovo and its co-conspirator, Superfish, of secretly installing intrusive, malicious and dangerous software onto Lenovo computers before selling them to unwitting consumers throughout the country. The software, known as “Superfish Visual Discovery” (“Superfish Software”), was designed by Superfish to intercept secure Web connections between the user’s computer and Web sites and inject content, such as unsolicited ads, into those connections so that they would display on the user’s screen.

The Superfish Software operates by adding a “trusted root certificate” to the “root stores” used by the computer’s internet browser, e.g. Windows Explorer or Firefox, telling the browser that the site can be trusted. This allows the Superfish software to effectively create a fake ID for any website, so that it can convince the browser that it is connected to the real website, when it is actually connected to Superfish.

As a result of the installation and operation of the Superfish software, users of the infected computers are subject to slower processing speeds and diminished storage space on their computers. In addition, they are subjected to unsolicited images and advertisements purporting to be responses from the websites to which they intended to connect, when they are actually fake images and advertisements selected by Superfish. The process used by Superfish also involves the monitoring of user activity and the collection of personal information for uploading to Superfish, so it can be analyzed for the purpose of selecting advertisement to be injected into legitimate websites, thereby compromising the security and privacy of Lenovo users Beyond the above described injuries, the manner in which Superfish operates seriously undermines the security features of infected computers in ways that make them extremely vulnerable to attack from third parties other than Superfish. Because Superfish replaces legitimate site certificates with its own certificate, users will not receive the notification that they otherwise would of the expiration of a website’s certificate or of the fact that the site’s certificate has been tampered with or is counterfeit. In essence, any user of a Lenovo computer on which the Superfish software has been installed is stripped of the ability to trust any secure internet connection that they attempt to make.

Superfish uses the same certificate for every site, making it vulnerable to being hijacked by third parties who identify the password for the “private key.” Anyone who does so is able to sign websites and software in a manner that would be trusted by any infected Lenovo computer. And the password Superfish used is a common dictionary word and the name of a manufacturer of related software, which was easily cracked and has been published on the Internet. As a result, every user of a Lenovo computer on which Superfish has been installed is vulnerable to having their passwords, encrypted keys and confidential information stolen by third parties.

As alleged, the presence and operation of the Superfish software was not disclosed to purchasers of Lenovo computers and was not reasonably detectible by them, thereby allowing Superfish to engage in the process of injecting unsolicited ads and images on end-user’s computers without their knowledge or prior approval. Superfish profited from this arrangement by payments from clients whose products or services were featured in the advertisements injected into websites that users visited.

The class action contends that Lenovo profited from its conduct as alleged herein by a direct payment from Superfish, under an agreement whereby such payment would be made in exchange for the secret installation of Superfish software on Lenovo computers, permitting Superfish access to consumers’ internet communications and private information without having to obtain the consent of such consumers. Purchasers of Lenovo laptop computers infected with Superfish software gained no meaningful benefit from the installation and operation of Superfish on their computers, and, in fact, were harmed by such actions.

Complaint

DOE finds Coast Professional, Enterprise Recovery Systems, National Recoveries, Pioneer Credit Recovery, and West Asset Management guilt of unfair or deceptive collection practices

The U.S. Department of Education announced that it will wind down contracts with five private collection agencies that were providing inaccurate information to borrowers. The five companies are: Coast Professional, Enterprise Recovery Systems, National Recoveries, Pioneer Credit Recovery, and West Asset Management.

During the past several months, the Department’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office performed a review of all private collection agencies that FSA works with. In these reviews, the Department sought to ensure that its private collection agencies were complying with the terms of the contract, which includes assurances that the agencies would not engage in unfair or deceptive practices and would comply with all applicable Federal and State laws.

The Department found that agents of the companies made materially inaccurate representations to borrowers about the loan rehabilitation program, which is an option that can create benefits to defaulted borrowers after they have made nine on-time payments in a period of 10 months.

The Department found that Coast Professional, Enterprise Recovery Systems, National Recoveries, Pioneer Credit Recovery, and West Asset Management routinely provided inaccurate information about these benefits.

As a result of its findings, the Department will reassign accounts held by these five agencies which are not already in repayment to other agencies. The Department will also increase monitoring to ensure that the students who began rehabilitation under the five private collection agencies will be treated fairly as they complete the rehabilitation process. Lastly, the Department will issue enhanced guidance to all remaining private collection agencies, increase internal training for FSA staff, enhance the private collection agency manual, expand monitoring for these types of issues, and refine its internal escalation practices.

 

Advocacy group finds 26 chocolate products with unacceptable levels of contain lead and/or cadmium

 

 

Responding to published research showing high levels of heavy metals in commonly eaten food items, As You Sow, a consumer advocacy group tested 42 chocolate products for lead and cadmium. AYS found that 26 of the chocolate products (62%) contain lead and/or cadmium at levels in which one serving exceeds the California safe harbor level for reproductive harm. AYS filed notices with 16 manufacturers, including See’s, Mars, Hershey, Lindt, Godiva, Whole Foods, and others, for failing to provide required warnings to consumers that their chocolate products contain lead, cadmium, or both.

“Nobody expects heavy metals in their chocolate,” said Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow. “By issuing these notices, we hope to convince chocolate manufacturers to either remove or reduce heavy metals in their products through sound supply chain practices, or provide warnings so consumers can make their own choices about whether to consume the products.”

Manufacturers and products that received Prop 65 letters include:

Bissinger’s All Natural 60% Dark Chocolate Whole Almonds

Earth Circle Foods dba River Canyon Retreat Inc. Earth Circle Organics Organic Balinese Cacao Nibs Cold Pressed

Ghirardelli Chocolate Company Ghiradelli Intense Dark 72% Cacao Twilight Delight Chocolate Bar; Ghiradelli Chocolate Premium Baking Bar 100% Cacao Unsweetened Chocolate

Godiva Chocolatier, Inc. Godiva Chocolatier 50% Cacao Dark Chocolate Sea Salt; Godiva Chocolatier 85% Cacao Extra Dark Chocolate; Godiva Chocolatier 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate

The Hershey Company (dba Artisan Confections Company) Scharffen Berger Semisweet Fine Artisan Dark Chocolate (62% cacao); Scharffen Berger Extra Dark Fine Artisan Dark Chocolate (82% cacao)

Dagoba Organic New Moon Rich Dark Chocolate (74% cacao)

Lake Champlain Chocolates Lake Champlain Chocolates Dark Chocolate (57% cocoa)

Lindt & Sprüngli (USA) Inc. Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Excellence Extra Dark

Mars, Incorporated Dove Silky Smooth Dark Chocolate Bar

Mondelez International, Inc. Green & Black’s Organic 85% Cacao Bar

Moonstruck Chocolate Co. Moonstruck Dark Chocolate Chile Variado (68% cacao)

See’s Candies, Inc. See’s Candies Premium Extra Dark Chocolate (62% cacao)

The Kroger Co.  Private Selection 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate Swiss Bar

Theo Chocolate Theo Organic Fair Trade Pure 85% Dark Chocolate

Trader Joe’s Company Trader Joe’s Swiss 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate; Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Bar – Toffee With Walnuts and Pecans 70% cacao; Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Dark Chocolate; Trader Joe’s Pound Plus, 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate 73% Cacao Super Dark; Trader Joe’s The Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Bar (85% cacao);

Vosges, Ltd. Wild Ophelia All Natural New Orleans Chili – Dark Chocolate Bar (70% cacao)

Whole Foods Market, Inc.  365 Everyday Value Organic Dark Chocolate (56% Cacao)

For more information, visit http://www.asyousow.org/our-work/environmental-health/toxic-enforcement/lead-and-cadmium-in-food/

Hyundai named in class action lawsuit over false and deceptive conduct associated with sale of Blue Link Telematics System

 

The class action lawsuit challenges the unlawful scheme engaged in by Defendant Hyundai Motor America (hereinafter “Defendant” or “Hyundai”) in the selling and continued servicing of its telematics remote monitoring feature, “Blue Link Telematics System.” The term “telematics” refers to the branch of information technology that deals with the long-distance transmission of computerized information. The term has evolved to refer to automobile systems that combine global position satellite tracking and other wireless communications for automatic roadside assistance and remote diagnostics, first popularized by General Motors Corporation with its OnStar system.

Beginning in 2011, Hyundai introduced the Hyundai Blue Link Telematics System in certain models of its 2012 model year line-up, including the popular Hyundai Sonata. According to Hyundai, the Blue Link system “uses an enhanced cellular network, with automatic roaming, that optimizes connections and prioritizes emergency requests.” With Blue Link, Hyundai customers get automatic emergency assistance in the event of a collision, point-of-interest search and navigation assistance, the ability to remotely operate various vehicle features, and self-diagnostic vehicle reports. Though Hyundai owners must subscribe in order to receive the benefits of the Blue Link system, all necessary hardware for the Blue Link system is a “standard feature” included in the sale price of Blue Link equipped Hyundai vehicles.

Purchasers of Blue Link equipped Hyundai vehicles were provided with a trial subscription period ranging from 3 months to one year free of charge. Following the expiration of the free trial period, Hyundai owners had the option to pay for continued Blue Link subscription service or to pay nothing and allow the Blue Link subscription service to lapse. If Hyundai owners either did not subscribe to Blue Link or thereafter allowed their subscription to lapse, Hyundai provided a telephone number that the vehicle owner, or any subsequent owner of that vehicle, could call in order to reactivate the Blue Link service for a “nominal connection fee.”

At no time from 2011 through the end of 2014, did Hyundai inform purchasers of its Blue Link equipped vehicles that if owners did not subscribe to the Blue Link subscription service, the Blue Link Telematics hardware would be rendered nonfunctional and would require replacement at the customer’s expense if they, or a subsequent owner of the vehicle, desired to reactivate the Blue Link subscription service at a later time.

As alleged, on or about January 7, 2015, Hyundai notified owners of its Blue Link equipped vehicles whose Blue Link subscription services had been inactive for more than one year, that “If you do not reactivate your Blue Link services by January 15, 2015, your current Blue Link system in your vehicle will be permanently disabled.” In the same notice, Hyundai informed said owners that “[reactivating your Blue Link services after it is disabled will require a hardware change, dealer-assisted installation, and will cost a minimum of $500 to replace the telematics unit plus any applicable subscription fees.”

In threatening to permanently disable the Blue Link Telematics hardware, Hyundai forced owners of its Blue Link equipped vehicles to choose between: a) subscribing to the Blue Link service, that they previously had been informed was optional; or b) allowing the Blue Link Telematics hardware that they had purchased with their vehicles to be rendered non-functional, thereby devaluing their vehicles, and requiring a significant additional expense in the event they, or any subsequent owner, desired to avail themselves of the Blue Link subscription service.

As alleged, Hyundai’s actions constitute a breach of contract terms of the sale of Blue Link equipped Hyundai vehicle as provided for in the Monroney Sticker affixed to such vehicles which included as a “STANDARD FEATURE” the “Hyundai Blue LinkTM Telematics System.” It also constitutes a breach Hyundai’s representation to owners, as set forth in Hyundai’s Blue Link Handbook, that if they declined enrollment in the Blue Link subscription service, the Blue Link service could later “be reactivated by the owner or subsequent owners” for “a nominal reconnection fee.”

Complaint

 

Cytosport named in class action lawsuit for misleading consumers about protein content of its Muscle Milk Products

Cytosport formulates, manufactures, advertises and sells the popular “Muscle Milk” and Cytosport branded powdered and ready-to-drink (“RTD”) protein supplements throughout the United States, Cytosport’s marketing efforts target all age groups and lifestyles, including people engaged in fitness, as part of a weight loss program and protein supplementation for aging adults.

According to the complaint, Cytosport markets its products in a systematically misleading manner, stating that its products have ingredients, characteristics and benefits that they do not.

Because Defendant’s sales are driven by consumers seeking protein supplementation, Cytosport prominently displays the total protein contents of its RID protein supplements (Cytosport Whey Isolate Protein Drink, Monster Milk: Protein Power Shake, Genuine Muscle Milk: Protein Nutrition Shake, and Muscle Milk Pro Series 40: Mega Protein Shake (collectively the “Muscle Milk RTD Products”)) on the front and back of each product’s label.

Cytosport’s target market is not only interested in the amount of protein, but also the type and quality of additional supplements included in each product. Accordingly, Defendant markets and labels its Muscle Milk: Lean Muscle Protein Powder, Muscle Milk Light: Lean Muscle Protein Powder, Muscle Milk Naturals: Nature’s Ultimate Lean Muscle Protein, Muscle Milk Gainer: High Protein Gainer Powder Drink Mix, and Muscle Milk Pro Series 50: Lean Muscle Mega Protein Powder (collectively the “Muscle Milk Powder Products”) as containing a “Precision Protein Blend” – highlighting that these products include proteins from multiple sources and amino acids, such as L-Glutamine, to boost athletic performance.

Defendant labels a subset ofits Muscle Milk products as “lean” to impress upon the public that is products contain less fat than its competitors: Defendant’s Muscle Milk: Lean Muscle Protein Powder, Muscle Milk Light: Lean Muscle Protein Powder, Muscle Milk Naturals: Nature’s Ultimate Lean Muscle Protein, Muscle Milk Pro Series 50: Lean Muscle Mega Protein Powder, and Monster Milk: Lean Muscle Protein Supplement (collectively the “Lean Muscle Milk Products”).

As alleged, despite Cytosport’s labeling ofthe Muscle Milk RTD Products, Muscle Milk Powder Products and the Lean Muscle Milk Products to the contrary, Defendant’s products do not contain the ingredients and characteristics advertised. Indeed, Cytosport’s Muscle Milk RTD Products do not contain the quantity of protein that is advertised, and thus warranted, on each of the Product’s labels. But instead these Products contain significantly less protein than what is claimed and displayed. Likewise, Cytosport expressly advertises and labels, and therefore warranties, that the Muscle Milk Powder Products’ proprietary “Precision Protein Blend” contains L-Glutamine, an amino acid that aids in muscle recovery and is essential for the proper operation of the immune system. Nevertheless, Cytosport’s Muscle Milk Powder Products do not contain free-form L-Glutamine in any appreciable amount.

Cytosport also labels each of its Lean Muscle Milk Products as “lean” and containing “Lean Lipids” – suggesting to reasonable consumers that these powders contain less fat than other similar supplements on the market. According to the complaint, this is false as Defendant’s Lean Muscle Milk Products contain no less fat than the majority of its competitors. In fact, Defendant fortifies its Lean Muscle Milk Products with sunflower and canola oils, considerable sources of fat. Therefore, Defendant has no basis to label its Lean Muscle Milk Products as “lean.”

By marketing their Muscle Milk Powder Products as containing a “protein blend” which includes L-Glutamine, but failing to actually include this amino acid within the Products, and by misstating the actual protein content of the Muscle Milk RTD Products, Defendant violates federal regulations designed to prevent deceptive food labeling and breaches an express warranty created by its labeling. Additionally, federal regulations also prevent Defendant’s misleading use of the term “lean” to describe its products that are not. Defendant’s multiple and prominent misrepresentations regarding its protein supplements form a pattern of unlawful and unfair business practices that visits harms on the consuming public.

See a copy of the complaint here