Consumers are more aware these days of their rights. Increasing price indexes, competition and recession are making them get even more stringent about their spending decisions. Probably that’s intimidating most of the consumers to know more about their rights and take up the matters legally when they find that they are being tricked with irrational prices or low-quality goods or both. Of late, the number of cases filed by the consumers against the retailers or brands is alarmingly increasing, particularly in the Middle East.
One basic aspect we commonly see is that more than the prices, the quality is what many people, at least the affluent ones look forward to. They do not mind paying more if the quality of the goods and services are at par. The issue arises when they pay an irrational amount and find the quality not even near to the mark.
Another major issue that has been making rounds in the recent times in social media and private circles are hazardous ingredients that are seemingly added to many edible, medical and baby products. Medicines have also been adulterated with hazardous chemicals and being sold without adequate warnings.
Sometimes, the advertisements go much beyond reality and the false promises advertised are to be paid for by the brands. This is one major reason the advertisements contain statutory warning and quite a lot of information such as graphics, as against another popular brand etc. displayed along with the advertisement.
Legal proceedings against some big brands are initiated by banks and government also because of various reasons. In fact, some of the popular brands face even copyright lawsuits filed by the competitors. The war seems quite ugly if you look at it in detail! Matters get even worse when the defendant brands either do not respond or fail to appear in the court and the appellant wins the case by default. More than often, when the brand is seriously faulty in the matter, they decide not to appear and make things worse at the court. The appellant wins, in such case, and is awarded the reward that the court decides. This way, the brand is saved a lot of unnecessary media glare and negative publicity.
Sometimes the fight starts from within as in the case of partners filing a case against the other partners!
Here’s a look at 10 of the most interesting lawsuits filed against big brands and what happened to them, in no particular order.
Johnson and Johnson – Ingredients contain Potential Carcinogens
You may remember the lawsuits filed against Johnson and Johnson a few years back and the verdict which came out a few months back favoring the consumers. This case and the verdict was viral in social media and was a major concern among mothers who were all using the baby powder for their children for generations till then. This was the most trusted brand for baby products and when the verdict came favorable to the consumer, confirming the fact that the powder indeed could cause cancer was a big blow to their trust created over many generations.
One major change that has come over because of the publicity this case got was that at least a section of the mothers is now more careful about what constitute the products they use on their very young children.
MasterCard – Unfair Fees Charged
MasterCard faces cases worth19 billion pounds due to various customers because of unfair cross-border transaction fees charged. A majority of the credit card holders are rarely aware of the hidden charges the companies levy on various heads. This case has opened up the eyes of many car users who are more careful about the charges levied upon for various transactions.
In case you still are not bothered, remember that some companies charge as much as 45% pa on delayed remittance and various other transactions. So make sure you keep a check on your card transactions and the charges now onwards.
You can use your credit cards smartly to manage your transactions and not fall into the trap of unwarranted charges.
Apple Inc. – The law is not above money!
Apple seems to have as many enemies as they have ardent fans! Last December, Deric White, a retired model, won a case against Apple and was awarded £1200 by the court because Apple had deleted some of his honeymoon photos without his information! Here the fact that even a techie giant like Apple was not spared by the law and that a common man was able to win the legal battle because he was right.
It reassures the common man’s belief in the country’s law.
Burger King – Unethical business model
When big brands in the food industry adopt unethical methods in various aspects from their source of materials to business models, they are bound to backfire on their business. That’s the case with Burger King. The company has way too many legal issues across the world. In fact, it is not just Burger King, but their competitors like KFC and McDonalds too who are facing legal issues in the way they are handling labour and the source of chicken and meat which has made the human rights and animal lovers intimidated.
So next time you order your favorite crispy fried chicken or steak from your favorite food outlet you can think of how brutally they handle these just-born chickens and calves and kill them before they are served on your platter!
Costco – For Supporting Slavery
Costco faces lawsuits for buying fish feed from farms manned by slaves. While the issue does not affect most of the affluent people who love Costo products, if you are human, you will think about the matter.
If you trace back the source of many of the high-profile products you get in the developed nation, most of them come from third world countries, sometimes, even from those struggling to sustain because of climatic and other socio-economic problems. More than often, the production units are manned by slaves or even children who are not even provided with the basic necessities, forget about the salary. Sometimes the malnourished children are forced to work under hazardous conditions and the big brand is reaping the profit to feed their high-profile investors.
They rarely fulfil their social commitment towards these underdeveloped groups because of whom they realise this profit.
Abercrombie and Fitch stores – Employment Discrimination
Employment Discrimination, particularly against those practicing Islam, is an increasing issue these days. Many Western countries deny jobs to the Muslims just because of their religion. This particular case against Abercrombie and Fitch stores gained popularity particularly because the lady, the victim, was denied the job because she wore a head veil or Hijab as per her faith.
While many companies are scared of the increasing issues of terrorism that involve a lot of so-called Muslim extremists, employment discrimination cannot be tolerated just because a candidate follows a particular religion. The court verdict favored Samantha Elauf.
Gucci Vs Guess – Design Imitation
This was a part of the Design and Patent Imitation war between two big designer brands. While it does not affect the common people who can either afford nor are bothered about design or patent imitations, the high-profile customers of both the brands were definitely intimidated by the issues. In fact, this fight keeps happening with most of the high-profile brands and everyone tries to imitate or follow the popular trends in the market.
You may remember the (in)famous Apple Inc. Vs Samsung war for similar issues.
Blue Diamond Almond Breeze – False Advertisement
Almond Milk which has only 2% almonds! That was the subject matter of the lawsuit. This is just one of those many products in the food brands that contain nothing that people think of. Thanks to false advertising and labelling, people tend to be misguided by them and end up buying such useless stuff which they consider will improve their health.
If you check the labelling of very famous beverages that are orange or lemon flavored, you will be shocked to find that they have nothing do to with the fruit! They are all synthetically flavored sugar syrups which will do only harm to your body over a period of time.
Biscuits and cookies are the next culprits. The so-called popular brands of health or diet cookies are also made of plain flour, margarine and sugar which are not healthy at all. Even if they claim to contain wheat flour, check the percentage.
Next time you buy a health drink or food, check its label. If it’s healthy, it is likely not to have much shelf-life.
Quaker Oats claiming to be 100% natural
Shocked? Don’t be! This is another of those false advertisement lawsuits against another popular health brand. The most alarming fact is that many doctors recommend such brands to their patients and unknowingly put them also in a risk. The company has maintained that it has not added any carcinogen to the oats during their processing and whatever levels that would have shown up would be because of some farmers using them as pesticides without their knowledge. They further add that their cleaning process should leave the product with minimal traces that would in no way be harmful to humans. We have to wait for the court verdict to see what happens.
But the whole matter is thought to provoke. The issue is grave when we think of the pesticides being used on fruits and vegetables to keep them from rotting and fresh. We all end up consuming those, inviting fatal diseases such as cancer.
It is the high time our government takes stringent measures to make sure that the common man gets edible, non-hazardous food to eat.
Atlas Jewelry – For Defaulting Loans
The popular Indian jewelry brand’s owner was taken into custody after much drama as he was found defaulting bank loans worth millions. Atlas Ramachandran, as he was popularly known, became a brand name himself with his hundreds of jewelry branches spread across India and Middle East. Last year, he was arrested as he was defaulting loans over 150 million taken from various banks in India and the Middle East. Mr Ramachandran was a famous personality, having produced, directed and acted in many popular Malayalam movies. The arrest came as a shocker as his jewelry brand had recently opened a few branches in India.
Big Tobacco – For not giving Statutory Warnings on potentially fatal products
It does not happen every day that a tobacco tycoon like Big Tobacco would lose a lawsuit filed over statutory warning. A couple of years back, a widow was awarded around $23 billion in the case against Big Tobacco. The widow lost her husband at a very young age as he was only 36 when he died of Lung Cancer. Apparently, Michael Johnson was addicted to cigarettes from a very small age that cost him his life. His wife took up the battle to create awareness rather than the alimony awarded. She wanted to spread the fact that tobacco is very hazardous to health and can cause fatal illnesses. She was upset that even though the tobacco giants know the ill effects they never warn the smokers. The battle was quite long, lasting around 8 years. But she along with her legal support continued the fight and is ready to take up more trouble if Big Tobacco plans to appeal.
Starbucks – For Wrong Sizing
We tend to trust the brands blindly. The Starbucks lawsuit for wrong sizing claim will be an eye opener to many of the brand fanatics. Even though the matter is sub judice, the consumers can start checking for the quantity advertised or printed on the label and what they actually get.
We all know that these are only a dozen of the known cases.
Since the social media has become a great communication tool, many customers are posting their feedbacks and issues they had with known brands there and the company’s marketing people make sure that these posts do not get viral. They manage to mend the issues in the beginning stage itself with money or other lucrative offers because of which we rarely get to know them. Many people are of the opinion that technology has triggered the growth of retail unrest and things were not as bad when we did not have e-commerce.
I guess another major reason has to be the amount of information we are able to get sitting in our house through the internet. Ethics in business has become a rare commodity which is affecting the human life negatively in many cases.
Creating proper awareness among the manufacturers, farmers, traders and the consumers can prove to be helpful for sustainable living for everyone.