Putative Class Action Against Coca-Cola Alleges Consumer Fraud Over Hard Seltzer Advertising

On Sunday, a putative class-action complaint was filed against the Coca-Cola Company, alleging violations of state consumer fraud and consumer protection acts over advertising of the company’s Topo-Chico Margarita-Hard Seltzers.  

According to the complaint, which was filed in the Southern District of New York, Coca-Cola manufacturers, distributes, labels, markets and sells a line of alcoholic beverages called Topo-Chico Margarita-Hard Seltzers. The complaint also claims that the product’s packaging deceivingly includes a yellow backdrop of an agave plant with the representations “4.5% ALC/VOL” and “Margarita Hard Seltzer.”

The complaint alleges that the product’s packaging causes consumers to expect that the product contains tequila — given the “Margarita Hard Seltzer” representation, as well as the agave plant, which is the source crop for tequila. The complaint states that margaritas contain tequila, and because the term “hard” in the context of alcohol refers to distilled spirits, that results in consumer expectations that the product contains tequila. 

But despite those expectations, the complaint states that Topo-Chico Margarita-Hard Seltzers’ ingredients do not include tequila. So the plaintiff argues that the product’s labeling and advertising are false and misleading, resulting in consumers purchasing a product that is materially less than advertised. 

Claims include alleged violations of New York’s General Business Law, state consumer fraud acts, breach of warranty, fraud and unjust enrichment. The plaintiff seeks class certification monetary, statutory and punitive damages — along with attorneys fees and costs. 

The putative class-action plaintiff is represented by Sheehan & Associates, P.C.