Makers of the energy drink Red Bull have agreed to settle a class action lawsuit filed against them because, despite claims made in their famous television ad campaign, Red Bull apparently does not give someone wings. Austrian-based Red Bull GmbH, who produce the world’s number one energy drink, have approved a $13 million settlement with consumers in the United States and a process is in place for Red Bull drinkers to claim a refund.
Those who purchased Red Bull products between Jan. 1, 2002, and Oct. 3, 2014 – and are not currently sporting actual wings – will be able to claim $10 in cash or Red Bull products equaling a $15 value. Consumers who did not retain their receipts each time they bought the drink need not worry; no proof of purchase will be required. As part of the settlement, the company is obliged to ensure that consumers are informed of their rights under this settlement and are made aware of how they will be able to claim their refunds. Red Bull GmbH will also cover the cost of shipping, for those consumers who choose to take the products, rather than the cash reimbursement.
In addition the $13 million settlement, the company will pay more than $4.5 million in legal costs. Red Bull GmbH has denied any wrongdoing but did agree to discontinue its allegedly false claims about the drink’s benefits. In a statement, the company maintained that its advertising had “always been truthful and accurate” but it decided to settle, in order to avoid litigation. For several years, the company’s main marketing slogan had been “Red Bull gives you wings.” Apparently, not only does the energy drink not give you wings but, according to the European Food Safety Authority, provides no more of an increase in performance or energy than the caffeine in a cup of coffee.
Two separate suits were originally filed against the beverage company; one in California and on in New York. Ultimately, the California case transferred to New York and both cases were adjudicated by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Red Bull is not the only energy drink in hot water over allegedly false marketing claims; Three states – Vermont, Oregon and Washington – have filed suits against the Michigan-based company Living Essentials, makers of 5-Hour Energy. Other states are expected to file similar complaints. In this case, the company intends to fight the suits and described them as an attempt at “civil intimidation.” The company has been the target of a Food and Drug Administration investigation since 2012. The investigation is focused on a possible link between 5-Hour Energy and 13 deaths, between 2008 and 2012. The company reported adverse health effects upon consumers of the drink, including heart attacks and convulsions.
At the heart of the matter is the amount of caffeine in energy drinks. Large doses of caffeine have been linked to heart attacks. In 2012, a 14-year-old Maryland girl, Anais Fournier, died after consuming two 24-ounce Monster Energy drinks in a 24-hour period. Her parents sued the manufacturer after the autopsy report cited “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity” as being the cause of her death. Whilst the amount of caffeine in energy drinks is not always specifically stated, the two drinks consumed by Fournier are believed to have contained a total of 480 milligrams of caffeine. An eight-ounce cup of regular Starbucks coffee contains around 165 milligrams of caffeine.
For consumers of Red Bull who discovered that the drink does not give someone wings, a toll-free number has been made available for claim form requests. Call (877) 495-1568. Alternatively, a link to an online form has been created although the page appears, currently, to be under construction. A link can be found at the foot of this article.
Opinion by Graham J Noble