In California, it’s not legal to advertise the “original prices” of items unless the items were actually offered for sale at those prices within the immediately preceding three months. This class action alleges that Cole Haan outlet stores violated those California laws in inventing false “original prices” for items that were never on sale at those prices.
The class for this action includes all persons who bought a product from a Cole Haan outlet stores that was made for the outlet in California, that bears an “original price” marking, at any time between July 13, 2013 and July 13, 2017.
When consumers see that an item is marked down by quite a bit from its original price, they generally think that they are getting a bargain. That is, they believe that they are getting higher-quality merchandise at a lower price. In the outlet stores of famous brands, customers often assume that the merchandise was originally for sale at higher prices in the brand’s regular stores. But many outlet stores have taken to having lower-quality lines created specifically for their outlets, and it’s not legal for stores to invent fake “regular” or “original prices” for these items if they were never actually offered for sale at those prices.
According to the complaint for this class action, Cole Haan creates for itself an image of quality and luxury that is built on “American craftsmanship and ingenuity,” and that the company is “growing rapidly in the US and abroad, as people rediscover the value of quality goods made without compromises.” The complaint claims that the company also cultivates an image of exclusivity by using celebrities such as Maria Sharpova to promote the brand.
However, the complaint alleges, the items in Cole Haan’s outlet stores were manufactured specifically for the outlets and are marked with false “regular” or “original prices” even though the items were never offered for sale at these prices. The complaint thus says the markings’ only purpose is to mislead customers into thinking that the outlet items are of higher value than they are, and that the customers are receiving them at a discounted rate.
The complaint charges that the merchandise made for the regular stores is of better quality, being made from better leather with better stitching and so on, and that the outlet merchandise is deliberately made in an inferior and cheaper way. In fact, the complaint claims that some items made for the outlets are coded with a “II” after the name, such as the product in question in this case, a pair of shoes called “Grand Crosscourt II.” The complaint alleges that the company is thus deliberately misleading consumers, in violation of California laws.