Beck’s beer false advertising class action settled

Posted on: November 16th, 2015 by Steve Larson
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Fotolia Beer SmallA Florida federal judge gave final approval to a settlement of up to $20 million to be paid by Anheuser-Busch after it was accused by a putative class of consumers of marketing domestically brewed Beck’s beer as a German import.  The settlement allows those who bought Beck’s Pilsner, Dark, Light and Oktoberfest beers from May 1, 2011, to June 23, 2015, to claim refunds depending on the size of the pack they bought, ranging from 10 cents per individual bottle or can to $1.75 for a 20-pack of bottles. Class members will have until Nov. 20 to claim up to $50 per household for purchases with receipts and $12 for those without. The company also agreed to include the words “Brewed in USA” or “product of USA” on the beer’s packaging for five years.

Under the settlement, Anheuser-Busch denies the alleged claims and charges or that it has violated any laws. The company has defended its labeling as non-deceptive.

The suit was originally filed in October 2013. In an amended complaint, the plaintiffs said that Beck’s had been brewed in Germany with European ingredients for 225 years. In 2002, the brand was bought by a Belgian company and became a part of Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV after a series of sales and mergers, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs alleged the brewer started producing the beer in the U.S. in 2012 to save $9 million annually in shipping costs. Even after beginning to produce the beer in St. Louis, Missouri, Anheuser-Busch sold the beer in packages that said “Originated in Germany” and “German Quality” to fetch premium import prices, the plaintiffs claimed.

The suit alleged that the only change to the packaging indicating the beer is brewed stateside is fine print on the labels, which can’t be seen until after purchase in most cases. The proposed settlement requires Anheuser-Busch to add “Brewed in USA” or “Product of USA” on the front and back of packs containing the bottles or cans.

The company moved to dismiss the suit in April 2014, arguing that the plaintiffs’ claim that they paid an import price for a domestic beer should have been directed at retailers who actually sold the beer.  The motion to dismiss was denied.

The case is Marty et al. v. Anheuser-Busch Cos. LLC, case number 1:13-cv-23656, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.