A federal judge in California has rejected Starbucks' efforts to dismiss a complaint against the popular coffee chain for selling underfilled lattes to its patrons.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson in San Francisco announced on Friday (June 17) that Starbucks customers Benjamin Robles of Carlsbad and Siera Strumlauf of San Francisco may seek damages from the coffee chain through a class action suit for false advertising and fraud.
Cutting Down On Milk
Starbucks has allegedly been serving customers lattes that are 25 percent smaller based on the recipe it had adopted in 2009 in order to save money on milk.
According to Robles and Strumlauf, the coffee chain requires its baristas to use pitchers to heat milk that have "fill to" markings that are too low. They have also been instructed to leave a quarter of an inch of free space in the drink cups that they serve to customers.
The plaintiffs believe this method shorts customers as Starbucks' cups for its lattes contain exactly 12 ounces for tall orders, 16 ounces for grande orders and 20 ounces for venti orders.
In his decision, Henderson explained that it is not a case where the supposed fraud can be considered implausible as a matter of law.
He said that the court deems it probable that a large number of people who regularly drink lattes could believe that a Starbucks grande order contains 16 ounces of the beverage.
Despite this, Henderson did not rule on the merits of the case. He also dismissed three of Robles and Strumlauf's eight claims against the coffee giant, as well as their attempt to obtain injunctive relief.
Reggie Borges, a spokesperson for Starbucks, said on Monday that the company maintains that the complaint is without merit and is prepared to take legal action to defend itself against all remaining claims.
Borges added that Starbucks will voluntarily remake its beverages in order to suit the preferences of its customers.
Robles and Strumlauf's complaint is just one of at least four potential lawsuits against the Seattle-based coffee maker regarding underfilled lattes. One of the potential class actions involves Starbucks' cold beverages.
Based on the complaint submitted to a federal court in Illinois, Starbucks allegedly has been misleading its customers regarding the ice-to-product ratio of its various cold beverages.
In New York, a similar complaint has been filed, which centers on Starbucks' mocha drinks as well as its lattes.
Starbucks' lawyers are now working to consolidate all four cases and have them transferred to Western District of Washington, where the coffee giant's headquarters is located.