What state of mind would you be in if you bought a container of something called “Fruit Bliss” and found it to be 80% empty? The word “bliss” probably wouldn’t describe it. According to the complaint for this class action, plaintiff Anthony Buso was “surprised and disappointed” to find that the bag of Fruit Bliss Organic Deglet Nour Dates he’d purchased was more than three-quarters empty.
The class for this action includes all California residents who bought Fruit Bliss Organic fruit products at retail, in containers with non-functional slack-fill as defined by the California Business and Professions Code § 12606.2, during the applicable statute of limitations period up to the final judgment for this action.
A Nielsen study shows that the average consumer spends only thirteen seconds to make a purchasing decision in stores and only ten to nineteen minutes online. Most don’t bother to read label information, and even if they did, they probably only have a hazy idea of what a certain number of ounces of a certain kind of product amounts to. Consumer Reports says, “Faced with a large box and a smaller box, both with the same amount of product inside . . . consumers are apt to choose the larger box because they think it’s a better value.”
The complaint alleges that Penguin Trading, Inc. packages its Fruit Bliss products in opaque containers with approximately 50% empty space that fulfills no function except to make the product appear larger.
California’s Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (CFPLA) was designed to protect consumers against this sort of thing. The complaint quotes it as saying, “Packages and their labels should enable consumers to obtain accurate information as to the quantity of the contents and should facilitate value comparisons.” It also says, “A container that does not allow the consumer to fully view its contents shall be considered to be filled as to be misleading if it contains nonfunctional slack fill.”
When is slack fill nonfunctional? When it doesn’t fulfill a useful purpose. The law’s § 12606.2 offers six valid reasons for leaving empty space in a package, including the following:
The complaint claims that none of these reasons applies to the Fruit Bliss products, which makes the slack fill non-functional. Judging from the size of the containers, the complaint claims, a reasonable consumer would assume that they contain much more of the product than they do.
The complaint thus alleges that the Fruit Bliss products violated the CFPLA, part of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act.