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Russell Stover, Ghirardelli Chocolates Contain Empty Space Class Action

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Heart-Shaped Box of Russell Stover Chocolates

It’s a new take on the “excessive slack fill” allegation. The complaint for this class action alleges that candy containers from Russell Stover Chocolates, LLC and Ghirardelli Chocolate Company contain deceive consumers because they contain too much nonfunctional empty space. 

Two classes have been defined for this action.

  • The Nationwide Class is all consumers in all states who bought any products with actionable representations, during the statutes of limitation.
  • The New York Class is all consumers in the state of New York who bought any products with actionable representations.

Both companies sell chocolates, in brick-and-mortar stores, in third-party outlets, and online. Both companies use a variety of packaging for their products, from candy boxes of various sizes and shapes to standup or tent bags. 

The complaint names a number of products from the companies:

  • 100% Unsweetened Cocoa
  • Premium and Caramel Chocolate Assortment Squares
  • Russell Stover Fine Assorted Chocolates
  • Masterpiece Timeless Collection 
  • Whitman Sampler Assorted Chocolates

However, it asserts that the packages for these products are “predominately empty.” “This is accomplished through the large void spaces which comprise most of the packaging interior around the actual few items contained therein.”

Laws about slack fill say that, when the contents of containers are not visible to consumers, the packaging cannot be made so as to deceive them as to the amount of product inside. 

Slack fill may be functional or necessary. Federal and state laws provide some specific instances of functional slack fill. For example, contents may settle in transit, or the machines that enclose the products may need a little extra space in order to properly close the package. Also, sometimes more space is needed to satisfy regulations on labeling. 

However, if the slack fill is not fulfilling one of the specific purposes cited, then it is considered nonfunctional. That is the contention in this case: The complaint says that the products are packed in “non-conforming type packages” and that the volume and sidewalls contain extra space that serves no purpose. 

The complaint says, “Defendants possessed information that was not prominent, definite and conspicuous, and was contrary to the guidelines established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Handbook for measurement of the weight of the Products.”

Interestingly, the complaint was filed shortly before Valentine’s Day. (Bah, humbug on those oversized heart-shaped boxes!)

The complaint alleges violations of New York’s General Business Law, negligent misrepresentation, breaches of warranties, and fraud, among other things.

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