Companies know the importance of advertising. Many people are attracted by a particular label or claims that a product is associated with a certain time in history or perceived social standing. This is especially true of alcohol where, aside from the taste, many people make their purchasing decisions based on a sense of prestige. Breweries and distilleries often try to given their brand a pretigious image and use that image in their advertising, including the producers of Templeton Rye Whiskey.
According to a recent class action lawsuit against the company, Templeton Rye allegedly violated consumer protection laws by allegedly misleading consumers with stories of the whiskey’s origins. Marketing material released by the company claims that its founders were inspired by the Prohibition-era recipe of Alphonse Kerkhoff, which was handed down through his family on a scrap of paper. The label on the whiskey bottle also bears an old black-and-white photo, which is reminiscent of America in the 1920s when Prohibition was in effect. The label matches the whiskey maker’s claims to a recipe that has been handed down through the generations, and reinforces the belief that the whiskey is made using a recipe that is almost 100 years old.
However, Vern Underwood, the company’s chairman, was recently interviewed by Register, at which point Underwood revealed that Kerkhoff’s original recipe does not meet current FDA regulations. Instead, the whiskey is allegedly made using a stock recipe in an Indiana distillery. The fact that a Prohibition-era recipe allegedly does not meet modern federal regulations should hardly come as a surprise, but it does change consumer perceptions of the whiskey. If the original assumption of age and prestige was a significant factor in consumers’ decisions to purchase the whiskey, then the advertising is attracting customers through allegedly false and deceptive means. Templeton denies this is the case.
The location of the distillery is another cause for alleged concern, according to the class action lawsuit. Although Templeton Rye is based in Iowa and its marketing materials include a T-shirt that reads, “Templeton Rye: Made in Iowa”, the whiskey is allegedly actually produced and bottled in Indiana. To remedy the misconceptions that result from this, the company has announced that it plans to being printing on its labels that the whiskey is distilled in Indiana. According to the class action lawsuit though, the alleged mislabeling of the whiskey was intended to deceive its drinkers into believing that they were getting a craft whiskey that was made in Iowa.
The lawsuit was filed in Cook County by a Chicago law firm on behalf of “all individuals in the United States who’ve purchased a bottle of Templeton Rye.” If the class is certified and enough class members decide to participate, Templeton Rye could end up paying a fortune to whiskey drinkers all over the country.
Although companies are allowed a certain amount of leniency when it comes to the material that they use to promote their products, consumer protection laws exist to prevent them from using blatantly false statements, or statements that could be used to deceive customers. Templeton Rye allegedly violated these laws, resulting in the class action lawsuit. Templeton denies that it did anything wrong or misled consumers and will fight the lawsuit.
Our Naperville, Illinois consumer rights private law firm handles individual and class action predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totalling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago consumer lawyers at Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.
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