Mazow | McCullough attorneys are currently working on a class action lawsuit against Diageo-Guinness, USA, Inc., and its parent, Diageo North America, Inc. in the U.S. District Court in Boston. The lawsuit alleges that Guinness engaged in deceptive marketing techniques, purporting that their beer heralds from Dublin, Ireland, when in reality, it is brewed in a Canadian production facility.
A feature article in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly goes into detail about the lawsuit:
Your run-of-the-mill beer drinker might not be fazed to learn Guinness comes from a modern production facility in Canada rather than a historic brewery in Dublin, Ireland. Kieran O’Hara is not one of those beer drinkers. Last month, the Swampscott resident filed a consumer class action [lawsuit].
Brought under G.L.c. 93A, §2, the suit alleges the defendants market Guinness Extra Stout “in a manner which unfairly and deceptively misleads consumers into believing that all of the Extra Stout sold in the United States is brewed, sourced, bottled and imported in/from Dublin, Ireland, when in fact certain Extra Stout sold in the United States is brewed and imported in/from Canada.”
The case appears to have some teeth at first glance. The Guinness logo used on Extra Stout packaging includes the statement: “Traditionally Brewed St. James’s Gate Dublin.” The complaint further alleges that the Guinness website proclaims that “all” Guinness sold in the United Kingdom, Ireland and North America “is brewed in Ireland at the historic St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin.”
Yet the fine print says something else.
An exhibit filed with the complaint shows the label on a Guinness bottle with an acknowledgement in small type that the beer is brewed and bottled not in Ireland but in New Brunswick, Canada. “Extra Stout’s labels do not prominently place on their labeling a representation that Extra Stout is manufactured, brewed, bottled and/or imported from Canada with sufficient conspicuousness,” the complaint alleges.
The class action further claims that O’Hara and other consumers paid a “premium price” believing that Extra Stout is brewed and bottled in, and imported from, Dublin.
In addition to compensatory and punitive damages, O’Hara’s suit seeks a disgorgement of profits, under a theory of unjust enrichment, as well as injunctive relief requiring Guinness USA and its parent to correct their marketing practices.
“If the plaintiff’s allegations are true, Guinness should not be charging that premium price,” McCullough says.
While many people may consider this type of lawsuit frivolous with little to gain, it’s important to note that these are the types of legal actions that keep advertisers honest in their marketing. Without attorneys and lawsuits to keep advertisers in check, brands can make any claims about a product that they want.
Mazow | McCullough is excited to see how the case unfolds and what the final verdict will be. Will Guinness be required to relabel their beer or change their marketing tactics in some way to put less emphasis on the notion that their beer is brewed in Ireland? Stay tuned to find out.