Detroit, MI: A consumer fraud class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of consumers against Kraft Foods Global, Inc. and Starbucks Corporation for allegedly misleading consumers regarding the companies' "Tassimo"coffee system.
The lawsuit claims that from 2010 to 2012 Kraft and Starbucks continued promising buyers of the "Tassimo"the availibility of Starbucks' proprietary brewing cups (this information was printed directly on the box and product literature) despite Kraft' and Starbucks' allegedly knowing as early as 2010 that Starbucks would soon stop selling Tassimo-compatible brewing cups. By Dec. 6, 2010 the dissonance between Kraft/Starbucks was such that Kraft sought an injunction in a New York federal court (Case No. 10-9085-cs) to prevent Starbucks from breaking the Tassimo contract. Thus, the Montgomery suit alleges that neither Kraft nor Starbucks can reasonably claim to have lacked notice that Starbucks Tassimo cups would become unavailable to consumers. Nevertheless, it is alleged the Starbucks-branded Tassimo systems remained on the retail shelf throughout 2011 and into 2012.
During the last five years, single serve coffee brewing systems have steadily emerged in the marketplace as an increasingly appealing alternative to the conventional coffeemaker. And while numerous other manufacturers have introduced variations of the single-serve concept (e.g., Senseo; Brookstone; Black&Decker; Cuisinart etc.), the "pod" genre has inarguably been dominated by two competing products: Tassimo' T-cup system; and Keurig' K-cup system.
Functionally speaking, the Tassimo and Keurig are very similar; both deliver single servings of brewed coffee using convenient, throw-away brewing cups: T-cups for the Tassimo; K-cups for the Keurig. Owners must use these patented, proprietary cups, which are compatible only for the machines they were designed for and, as one might imagine, quite expensive when compared to the cost of bulk coffee.
Because each system only accepts its proprietary type of brewing cup, of paramount importance to consumers in choosing a Tassimo or Keurig was (and still is) knowing what coffees were available for use with each system. This has been especially true of the Tassimo system, which historically offered a coffee selection much narrower than its competing system, the Keurig. What the Tassimo had going for it, however, was the exclusive availability of proprietary Starbucks T-cups.
The lawsuit alleges that Kraft and Starbucks violated Michigan' Consumer Protection Act and other state consumer laws; and the Lanham Act, among other claims by packaging, promoting and selling the Tassimo system with packaging and literature stating the Tassimo was the system for which Starbucks brewing cups were available, despite knowing the same was false or would imminently become false, and worse yet, despite knowing Starbucks brewing cups would in the immediate future become exclusively available for use with the Tassimo' competing system, the Keurig.