An attorney for the plaintiffs argues that his clients may have only lost $2, but Taco Bell has made hundreds of millions of allegedly deceptive advertising.
A New Jersey couple is suing Taco Bell, claiming the chain misled them with a Chalupa advertisement.
NJ.com recounts their story.
In May of 2018, Nelson and Joann Estrella were watching television in their Middlesex, New Jersey, home. Suddenly, between programs, a Taco Bell commercial appeared. It promised potential customers the chance to buy a box of food for five dollars. Included in the deal was a Chalupa Supreme, 5-layer burrito, crunchy taco, cinnamon twists and a medium drink.
The Estrellas were sold. Setting off for Taco Bell, the pair ordered two Chalupa boxes.
Expecting to only pay $10 before taxes, the couple were shocked when the pre-tax total turned out to be $12.18. Instead of digging into their pockets and accepting a slightly less spicy deal than they’d expected, Nelson and Joann Estrella buckled in and lawyered up.
“How could two $5 meals come out to more than $12?” NJ.com inquires, paraphrasing part of the Estrellas’ legal complaint.
Still troubled after more than a year, the couple decided to file a lawsuit against Taco Bell and its parent company, Yum! Brands. Their suit says that Taco Bell deliberately misled customers by promising them a $5 Chalupa box and then failing to follow through.
“You can’t tell someone you are going to charge them $5 in big bold print and then take it away with a fine print disclaimer,” said attorney Douglas Schwartz, who’s representing the Estrellas. “You can’t do that. It’s against the law.”
The couple claim to have “sustained a ascertainable loss, in the form of time wasted driving to the subject Taco Bell, the gasoline expended to drive their vehicle to the subject Taco Bell, and in the amount of $2.18 , which is the difference between what they should have been charged ($10.00 before taxes) and what they were charged ($12.18 before taxes).”
The commercial which purportedly “induced” Nelson and Joann to visit Taco Bell featured a woman teaching children. In the ad, the woman says she sometimes needs a break from work. To that end, she goes to Taco Bell, buying a $5 Chalupa Cravings Box.
But there’s a critical catch—at the end, for less than two seconds, a disclaimer tells customers that prices may vary by location.
“It’s a classic bait and switch,” Schwartz said. “It’s consumer fraud being perpetrated upon not only the citizens of New Jersey, but all over the country. Taco Bell has reaped huge profits from their false, misleading and deceptive advertising.”
The lawsuit says that Taco Bell violated New Jersey law requiring businesses to display disclaimers in an easily readable, relevantly placed “type size and style.”
Schwartz points out that, while his clients only lost $2, the difference to Taco Bell is “hundreds of millions.”
Representatives for Taco Bell told NJ.com that they’ll defend the case vigorously.