Red Bull Sued Over Deceptive Marketing

By on January 17, 2013

Red Bull, the popular energy beverage which playfully promises to “give you wings,” does not provide consumers with more energy than one cup of coffee or even a caffeine capsule, a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleges.

The complaint claims that Red Bull uses misleading marketing to increase the price of the product whose assertions are greatly unsupported.

“Defendants are able to charge and get a substantial premium for their products over readily available and much lower priced sources of caffeine that provide the same or substantially similar results,” the lawsuit states.

The New York Times published a report on January 1, scrutinizing claims made by energy drink manufacturers, such as Red Bull, Rockstar Energy, Monster Energy, and 5-Hour Energy.

Promoting a message beyond caffeine has enabled the beverage makers to charge premium prices. A 16-ounce energy drink that sells for $2.99 a can contains about the same amount of caffeine as a tablet of NoDoz that costs 30 cents. Even Starbucks coffee is cheap by comparison; a 12-ounce cup that costs $1.85 has even more caffeine.

As with earlier elixirs, a dearth of evidence underlies such claims. Only a few human studies of energy drinks or the ingredients in them have been performed and they point to a similar conclusion, researchers say — that the beverages are mainly about caffeine.

The action seeks an injunction necessitating Red Bull to cease marketing that the beverage can offer advantages it does not and to change “any erroneous impression consumers may have derived concerning the nature, characteristics, or qualities of Red Bull.”