The devil is in the details. In the case of Taco Bell, the fine print could cost the fast-food chain upwards of $75,000 if a lawsuit filed by a New Jersey couple succeeds.
According to My Central Jersey, Nelson Estrella-Rojas and his wife Joann Estrella are suing Taco Bell and its mother firm, Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) after they were overcharged by $2.18 for two Chalupa Cravings Boxes. Each combo had been advertised as costing $5.
New Jersey Taco Bell overcharges combo by $2.18
The Estrellas bought the combo consisting of a Chalupa Supreme, Five-Layer Burrito, Crunchy Taco, Cinnamon Twist and medium drink after watching an ad last year in May. However, the two were charged $12.18 plus $0.81 sales tax. When they took up the issue with management, the Estrellas were informed that the deal was subject to certain conditions. These conditions appeared in a disclaimer at the end of the ad.
The couple has claimed that the legal small print violated the Consumer Fraud Act of New Jersey as it was not ‘clear and conspicuous.’ Per the Estrellas, the entire TV spot was 30-second long but the disclaimer lasted a tenth of the time. It was also only displayed at the screen’s bottom.
Section 56:8-2-2 of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act states:
The advertisement of merchandise as part of a plan or scheme not to sell the item or service so advertised or not to sell the same at the advertised price is an unlawful practice and a violation of the act to which this act is a supplement.
$2.18 hike could result in punitive damages of over $70,000
The disclaimer in the advertisement that the Estrellas saw indicated the price varied depending on location. Additionally, the price was only a promotional offer that was temporary at the participating outlets.
The couple now wants to be awarded both punitive and compensatory damages. This is for the time wasted driving to the Taco Bell outlet, the fuel they used and the extra $2.18 that they had to pay. The Estrellas are not including the state sales tax of 81 cents.
Though the lawsuit was initially filed in a state court, it has now been moved to a federal court since neither Taco Bell nor Yum! Brands, which also owns KFC, are headquartered in the Garden State. In this particular lawsuit, punitive damages could amount to over $75,000.