In a recent development, McDonald's and Wendy's have successfully defended themselves against a lawsuit that alleged the fast-food giants of misleading advertising.
The lawsuit, filed in 2022 by Justin Chimienti, claimed that both chains exaggerated the size of their burgers in their advertisements. The primary contention was that these advertisements showcased undercooked patties to give an illusion of a larger size. The lawsuit asserted that by doing so, customers felt duped into receiving a product of lesser value than what was projected in the advertisements.
However, in his judgement, US District Judge Hector Gonzalez pointed out that the advertising tactics employed by Wendy's and McDonald's were in line with general industry practices. He mentioned that many companies use visually compelling images to create a positive impression of their products. Furthermore, Judge Gonzalez highlighted that the disclaimers, evident on the companies' websites, offered genuine information regarding the weight and caloric content of the meals.
The phenomenon of food not matching its advertisement representation isn't unique to McDonald's or Wendy's. Over the past few years, numerous major fast-food chains, including Burger King, Arby's, and Taco Bell, have found themselves under scrutiny for similar reasons. Tommy Tobin, a lawyer specialising in food litigation and also a lecturer at the UCLA School of Law, commented on this trend. He stated that from 2020 to 2023, there was a notable surge in food litigation lawsuits. This was attributed to a group of lawyers who believe that the food shown in advertisements is often more generous than the real serving.
In reaction to such allegations, several chains, including Burger King, have commented that discerning consumers are aware that food advertisements are designed to make the product look as appetising as possible.
Given the recent dismissal in favour of McDonald's and Wendy's, the spotlight is now on a parallel case against Burger King regarding its Whopper burgers. Although permission has been granted to plaintiffs to pursue their case against the company, the outcome of the McDonald's and Wendy's case may well set a precedent for what's to come.