Blue Moon is a sweet Belgian wheat ale that has risen strongly in the American beer market. It is brewed by MillerCoors, which produces a number of beers. MillerCoors holds out Blue Moon as a craft beer, and the beer is priced much higher than Coors. A lawsuit has been filed against MillerCoors in San Diego, California accusing the company of false and deceptive advertising. Attorney Jim Treglio, who represents the plaintiff, discusses the lawsuit in this report.
Treglio says that there is a difference between craft beer and mass-produced beer. The term craft beer has supplanted microbrewed beer. Craft brewers are generally thought of as small, independent operations. The label of Blue Moon includes the words “artfully crafted.” Treglio says that MillerCoors “essentially promotes Blue Moon as a craft beer.”
Treglio points out that an examination of the Blue Moon label does not disclose the word “MillerCoors.” The beer’s advertising suggests that it is brewed by the Blue Moon Brewing Company located in Golden, Colorado. As far as the California Secretary of State is concerned, there is no such business entity as Blue Moon Brewing Company. It appears that Blue Moon is a “doing business as” name for MillerCoors. An Internet search or a study of the bottle would not advise the buyer that MillerCoors is producing Blue Moon. However, on the MillerCoors website, Blue Moon is listed as a MillerCoors beverage.
MillerCoors is trying to have it both ways, opines Treglio. The beer is being produced by a large beer company but sold at craft beer prices. The suit against MillerCoors has been filed under Section 17500 of California’s Business and Professions Code. Under that law, a label doesn’t have to be false to be in violation, merely deceptive, leading a consumer to believe that a product has properties it does not possess.
There are other lawsuits involving beers that seem to be imported but are in fact American products, including the Anheuser-Busch InBev products Kirin Ichiban and Beck’s. Treglio points out that Beck’s is held out as a German beer when, in fact, it is made in America. The rub is that A-B InBev is selling these domestic beers at imported prices. Consumers assume they’ll have to pay more for imported beers. That is similar to what is going on with Blue Moon. Consumers expect to pay more for craft beers in part to support independents and in part because the beer is a premium product.
Treglio says that he will in time move for class action certification for the lawsuit. The remedy available to consumers under the California law is that, eventually, they get their money back.
James M. Treglio is a partner in the San Diego law firm of Clark & Treglio. He handles cases involving consumer and employee class actions. He has been admitted to practice in the State of California since 2003. Previously, was the staff attorney for the Fair Housing Council of San Diego. He has litigated cases throughout the State of California and pioneered PAGA lawsuits for violations of Cal. Labor Code §§551 and 552. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.