False Ad Settlement: Are Red Bull Customers Victims Or Mentally Lazy?

Red Bull Sued Over Slogan Not Ingredients

Red Bull has agreed to pay $13 million as part of a lawsuit settlement. It turns out that the red drink does not “give you wings” in actuality or even metaphorically.

Of course, the plaintiffs weren’t really looking to inexplicably sprout wings and fly away. The main issue rested with Red Bull’s supposed claims to provide customers with an energy boost, increased focus, and even, improved physical ability.

Benjamin Careathers, the lead plaintiff in the case, admitted to drinking Red Bull for years, going all the way back to 2002. The lawsuit was filed in 2013.

The Bronx, New York native may have been able to claim victory thanks to the outcome of the lawsuit, but it is a bit bizarre that the lead plaintiff in the case admitted to buying a product that he felt didn’t work multiple times within an eleven year period.

The case brought by Careathers and others largely relied on a narrative where it was Red Bull’s advertising that was responsible for how they chose to spend their money.

“Even though there is a lack of genuine scientific support for a claim that Red Bull branded energy drinks provide any more benefit to a consumer than a cup of coffee, the Red Bull defendants persistently and pervasively market their product as a superior source of ‘energy’ worthy of a premium price over a cup of coffee or other sources of caffeine.”

It’s unclear what exactly prevented the customers (particularly repeat customers) from choosing to go ahead and get that cup of coffee. Even more baffling is how a blatantly untrue slogan featuring animated characters became the tipping point in such a serious lawsuit.

The implications are worrying.

Almost as worrying as someone suing Subway for not selling sandwiches that are genuinely one foot in length. Or blaming one’s criminal behavior on alcohol to the point where a billion dollar lawsuit is filed.

The $10 to $15 refund for each of the persons in the class action suit against Red Bull isn’t nearly as serious as the other two examples. Even so, the suit could be counted as part of a problematic trend: Customers who are mentally lazy.

Did the customers fail to do the proper research and think critically about Red Bull’s true capabilities? It’s possible.

It’s certainly interesting to observe the energy drink company cave to what some might consider a frivolous lawsuit. Aside from false advertising accusations, the company is also fighting a negative reputation tied to the supposed dangerous nature of its ingredients.

One need only look at the Cory Terry case. The late Terry’s family filed an $85 million lawsuit against Red Bull in 2013. They claimed the 33-year-old gulped down a can of Red Bull energy drink right before he suffered a fatal heart attack. They also said he drank the beverage regularly.

Compared to allegations of physical harm, a lawsuit that hinges on a failure to replicate fabulous feats acted out by trained athletes and cartoon characters falls flat.

Rather than continue to throw money at products like Red Bull, customers could do more thorough research about what they intend to buy. They can also learn from disappointment, and rather than continue to spend money on Red Bull drinks, elect to buy items that will give them the desired results.

Do you think Red Bull should have agreed to pay out millions or were these customers simply expecting too much from an energy drink?

[Image via Damien du Toit]