COLA’s Provide Scant Protection from Class Action Lawsuits
ShipCompliant recently published a guest blog post by DP&F Wine Law attorney John Trinidad on the class action lawsuits claiming that the use of the term “handmade” on vodka bottles constituted false or misleading information under state consumer protection laws.
Over the past year, a slew of class action lawsuits have been filed claiming that certain alcohol beverage product labels are false or misleading under state consumer protection laws. Tito’s Vodka, owned by a company called Fifth Generation, Inc., faces numerous actions claiming that the company’s use of the term “handmade” deceived consumers by leading them to believe that they were buying high quality, non-massed produced products.
Fifth Generation has fought these allegations, arguing that that TTB’s approval of their label as evidenced by the issuance of a certificate of label approval (“COLA”) protects against liability under state consumer protection laws. The company’s argument relies on “safe harbor” provisions provided for under state law, which in general make certain actions authorized by laws administered by state or federal regulatory authorities immune from liability. Unfortunately for the alcohol beverage industry, this argument has had mixed success.
To read the full blog post, please go to the ShipCompliant website.
TTB Announces Expansion of List of Changes for Prior Approved Labels
Today, the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) announced that it has further expanded the list of changes that may be made to approved labels (or COLAs) without requiring those labels to be resubmitted to TTB for review. Currently, industry members are permitted to make certain changes to approved alcohol beverage labels without applying for a new COLA under TTB guidelines entitled “Allowable Revisions to Approved Labels.” As of today, the following additional changes may be made to labels without re-submittal of previously approved labels: 1) Delete or change promotional sponsorship-themed graphics, logos, artwork, dates, event locations and/or other sponsorship-related information; 2) Add, delete, or change a label or sticker that provides information about a rating or recognition provided by an organization (e.g., “Recognized as one of the top values in vodka by x Magazine” or “Rated as the best 2012 wine by x Association”), as long as the rating or recognition reflects simply the opinion of the organization and does not make a specific substantive claim about the product or its competitors; 3) Delete all organic references from the label; 4) Change an approved sulfite statement to certain approved options included on TTB guidance; 5) Add, delete, or change information about the number of bottles that were “made,” “produced,” “brewed,” or “distilled” in a batch; respectively; 6) Add certain instructional statements to the label(s) about how best to consume or serve the product (only approved statements listed within the TTB guidance may be included).