OLYMPIA — Washington and two other states filed lawsuits Thursday against the maker of the 5-Hour Energy drink, accusing the company of making deceptive and misleading claims about the product and seeking refunds to consumers.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson accused the company, Living Essentials and Innovation Ventures, with misleading consumers with ads claiming that doctors recommend 5-hour Energy by “implying the product is safe for teenagers and claiming that the product causes ‛no sugar crash’ when the companies’ own study showed it triggers a caffeine crash.”
“We believe the ‘energy’ provided by 5-hour Energy products is derived solely from caffeine, not from vitamins and amino acids as their ads claim,” said Ferguson. “In addition, we believe the ‘energy blend’ does nothing and the ‘no sugar crash’ statement is misleading. I will not stand by and see Washington consumers subjected to deceptive advertising.”
The attorney generals of Oregon and Vermont also field suit against the maker of 5-Hour Energy and others may follow.
Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, claims 5-Hour Energy violated the Consumer Protection Act by engaging in the following unfair and deceptive business practices:
- Running a television commercial that featured ‘survey results’ from doctors who ‘recommend’ 5-hour ENERGY® while misrepresenting survey results and failing to disclose key facts;
- Using a ‘no sugar crash’ product tagline that is misleading in light of studies showing a caffeine crash;
- Implying that 5-hour ENERGY® is suitable for teens by stating on the product label, “Do not take if you are pregnant or nursing, or under 12 years of age”;
- Representing that the ‘energy blend’ in 5-hour ENERGY® provides ‘energy’ when it is believed the ‘energy’ is derived solely from the caffeine in the product; and
- Representing that the Decaf 5-hour ENERGY® provides ‘energy’ from vitamins and amino acids when it is believed the ‘energy’ is derived solely from the caffeine in the product.
Ferguson’s lawsuit seeks:
- Restitution for Washington state consumers;
- A permanent injunction prohibiting deceptive marketing practices;
- Civil penalties of up to $2,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act; and
- Recovery of investigative and attorney fees.
Earlier Thursday, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced she had filed a similar lawsuit.
The suit also alleges that the company used print, television, Internet and radio advertising to claim that 5-hour Energy contains a unique blend of ingredients that provide consumers with energy, alertness and focus, “when in reality the only ingredient that provides any effect is the concentrated dose of caffeine,” the attorney general’s statement said.
The company that produces 5-Hour Energy issued a statement in response to the Oregon lawsuit.
“When companies are being bullied by someone in a position of power, these companies roll over, pay the ransom, and move on. We’re not doing that,” the statement said.
“Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, is grasping at straws, and we will fight to defend ourselves against civil intimidation. Ms. Rosenblum alleges that the only ingredient in 5-hour ENERGY that has any effect is the caffeine. If so, is Ms. Rosenblum going to sue Starbucks for selling coffee? Obviously she has nothing better to do.”