Jack Shafer has a few thoughts:
Schneiderman mustn’t neglect the product endorsement industry. Do those celebrity endorsers really love the product or service as much as they say they do? … Fake reviews on Yelp, properly considered, are Yelp’s problem, not the state of New York’s. Let the Yelp people clean up the sewer. And the attorney general? Aren’t there any genuine crimes in the state for him to investigate?
That was the title of the talk I gave Friday at a panel on food and product labeling law as part of a stimulating symposium put on by the Vermont Law Review at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt. I drew on a number of different sources, but especially two relatively recent articles: Omri Ben-Shahar and Curt Schneider, “The Failure of Mandated Disclosure,” U. Penn. Law Review (2011), and Kesten C. Green and J. Scott Armstrong, “Evidence on the Effects of Mandatory Disclaimers in Advertising”, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, Fall 2012. I was able to bring in examples ranging from patent marking law to Prop 65 in California to pharmaceutical patient package inserts, as well as the durable phenomenon of labels, disclosures, and disclaimers going unread even by very sophisticated consumers.
My talk was well received, and I think I might adapt and expand it in future into a full-length speech for audiences on failures of consumer protection law.
According to a math teacher’s calculations, a sample yielded only 1.86 times as much filling between the chocolatey wafers, not “double.” Here’s the report, by Rachel Tepper in Huffington Post. Using comments, who would like to predict whether some law firm will file an intended class action over this problem within the next twelve months, on a scale where zero indicates “completely confident that there will not be such a lawsuit” and 10 indicates “completely confident that there will be”?
Bonus, from the article: “And Mega Stuf Oreos have only 2.86 times the creme in a regular Oreo. The prefix ‘mega’ literally means a factor of one million, which, granted, is impossible to translate to an Oreo. Still, perhaps another name could have sufficed.”
P.S. As a reminder, class action lawyers sued the Subway restaurant chain after it was reported that its “Footlong” sub was actually more like 11 inches long. And a federal judge is reconsidering a recent ruling allowing class action claims to go forward over the appearance on an ingredient list of “evaporated cane juice,” i.e., sugar.
P.P.S. Welcome Digg and Fark readers.
Update: “While I’m not familiar with what was done in the classroom setting, I can confirm for you that our recipe for the Oreo Double Stuf Cookie has double the Stuf, or creme filling, when compared with our base, or original Oreo cookie,” a spokeswoman for Nabisco told ABC News.
“Photographs of infants are to be banned from baby formula packaging under new European Parliament rules.” [Irish Times via Stuttaford]
“…but Does He Really Owe Damages?” That’s what the U.S. Department of Justice will claim, at least. “Perhaps most curiously, how will the court assess damages on behalf of the Postal Service? Has the brand of the USPS actually been harmed by Armstrong’s years-late confession?” [Brad Wieners, Bloomberg Business Week]
As part of the wrangling over remedies imposed by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, the federal government is demanding that tobacco companies be made to run ads declaring that the government was right and they wrong on various controversial issues, and in particular that they confess to having lied on purpose. A demand for judicially imposed self-denunciation, and in particular a demand that private actors be ordered to assert ideologically charged propositions that do not reflect their actual inward beliefs, should disturb civil libertarians, it seems to me, even if it does not disturb the U.S. Department of Justice. I’m quoted at 4:47 in this report by the BBC’s Ben Wright.
On Sunday the New York Times published a long, breathless screed attacking food company marketing (“Inside the hyper-engineered, savagely marketed, addiction-creating battle for ‘stomach share.’”) The article itself furnishes an example of empty, hype-fueled journalistic calories, or so I suggest in a new op-ed at the Daily Caller.
11 inches is more like it, according to a bunch of lawyers who’ve filed class actions [ABC News, Chicago Tribune] Ron Miller is not too impressed.
P.S.: “I trust every member of the class will be able to prove that their foot is longer than their sandwich” [@eggs_over_easy]
Class action lawyers have filed suit saying that contrary to its marketing, the popular beverage doesn’t actually “give you wings.” [Reuters, ABA Journal] Meanwhile, the same scientific observation that underlies the lawyers’ action — that pharmacologically, the drinks don’t seem to deliver effects readily distinguishable from those of a strong coffee — is hard to square with the oft-expressed fear that Red Bull et al pose unusual risks to consumers, although the New York Times does seem to manage to keep both ideas in its head at once. [Jacob Sullum]
More: Ron Miller, in comments (“this completely mischaracterizes the lawsuit”).
If you’re going to arrange a would-be class action on behalf of buyers dreadfully shocked that a ready-to-drink cocktail marketed as all-natural in fact included trace quantities of sodium benzoate, be sure your client does not lack “typicality.” [Alison Frankel, Reuters] Sodium benzoate is the sodium salt of benzoic acid, a spoilage retardant which occurs naturally in cranberries, plums, apples and other foodstuffs, but is typically synthesized for food use.
A new Oregon law forbids employers “to advertise a job opening if they won’t consider applicants who are unemployed.” [CNBC] Earlier on efforts to make jobless persons into a new protected class under discrimination laws here, here, etc.
Taking advantage of the media bubble arising from the announced shutdown of Hostess snack-cake operations, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is back with a bill proposing to deny the deduction as ordinary business expenses of money spent advertising kids’ snacks. Kay Bell and Kelly Phillips Erb apply deserved ridicule (via Paul Caron/TaxProf).
Plus: Baylen Linnekin on Denmark’s planned repeal of a pioneering fat tax (earlier) and the rejection by voters in two California cities of soda taxes.
ABC takes very seriously a complaint filed by a photographic model that Swedish automaker Volvo improperly degraded her image by allowing play-on-words copy into a promotion. She had signed broadly worded releases. [Good Morning America]
Raised on Hoecakes catches a NHTSA impaired-driving program telling a whopper:
“THE DAYS OF BEATING A DRUNK DRIVING ARREST HAVE BEEN RULED EXTINCT….
“If you are arrested, you will be prosecuted and likely lose your license, money and car.”
As Raised on Hoecakes says:
“Cool, huh? Only one problem: it isn’t true. Someone missed the memo telling judges to make arrests for DUI a resulting conviction 100% of the time.” In Florida, to take one state he says is representative, there were 55,722 DUI tickets and 33,625 DUI convictions in 2011, and although not all cases are closed the same year they begin, the estimated conviction rate still must run closer to 60 percent than 100 percent. Nor is it true that all arrests result in prosecution: prosecutors decline to press some charges where they deem the evidence in hand to be weak, and almost everyone, with the possible exception of certain hosts of TV crime shows, agrees that’s as it should be.
I suppose the generous way to interpret untruths like the ones on this poster would be as a fancier way to say, “Don’t drive drunk, you’ll get caught.” But they also send a rather more disturbing message: “If arrested on DUI and you believe the government’s case against you is weak, better not fight, just take a plea. Because it doesn’t matter how strong your defense is, a judge won’t save you.”
Presumably that second message is unintentional. [More: Scott Greenfield]