Vita Coco co-founder and CEO, Michael Kirban, has hit back at Canadian law firm Consumer Law Group (CLG), calling its class action against his firm over product hydration claims a ‘copycat suit’ that would not distract the business.
In a statement sent to BeverageDaily.com on Friday, Kirban saidl: “The suit filed by Consumer Law Group is a copycat suit, and my understanding is that copycat suits of US settlements are their specialty.”
As we reported last Thursday, superstar-backed coconut water brand Vita Coco faces the new class action in Quebec – filed on February 28 – concerning claimed product benefits in Canada, including a ‘super hydrating’ claim, just weeks after paying to settle a similar US suit.
CLG is instituting a class action on behalf of petitioner G. Del Zoppo, and all Canadian residents who had bought Vita Coco coconut water, with refunds and punitive damages claimed for alleged "unlawful and deceptive sales practices" that fuelled Vita Coco's fast growth as a lifestyle brand.
Understands jokes about lawyers…
As with the recently settled US suit, Kirban said that his superstar-backed brand (shareholders include Madonna and Rihanna) Vita Coco “was confident that the outcome of an actual legal battle would result in a dismissal, but law firms like CLG are looking to make a quick buck”.
“Now I know why lawyers are the focal point of so many jokes,” he added.
Vita Coco’s sales in Canada were tiny (at less than 1% of US sales), Kirban explained. “This, and the differences between the US and Canadian legal systems, makes us confident that this suit will not be a distraction to our business.”
But CLG founder, Jeff Orenstein, told BeverageDaily.com: “I read Mr Kirban’s comments about the copycat case, and I was curious as to this was his sole defence, because we get very much the same products in Canada and the US. If there were false advertising and misrepresentations that were made in the US they were also made here in Canada.”
“The reality is, to get Canadians paid – and after the Americans got paid, I think there’s no debate, the Canadians need to get paid – the only way to do so is to force them [All Market Inc] to do that.”
US and Canada share common border
Responding to Kirban’s claim that CLG’s specialty was copycat suits, Orenstein said that cases were often similar in the US and Canada, due to a common border and identical products on sale.
He said: “As you just saw, if there’s a settlement in the US, it doesn’t mean that Canadians get paid. So companies need to face sanction in both countries…and with regard to making a business, there is doubt that there is a business associated with the practice of law.
“But I have got a lot of cases settled or granted when Canadians have received money or refunds for these actions, and I think that’s actually a very good service for Canadians.”
Vita Coco’s rival ZICO also faces a class action regarding the quality of its products, under Californian Consumer Protection Law.
Filed in late October, the ZICO case (dismissed by the firm as baseless) claims that a ‘from concentrate’ product (mixing pure coconut water with coconut water from concentrate) is of an inferior quality.
The suit alleges that ZICO freely used terms such as ‘natural’, ‘pure premium’ and ‘coconut water’, but failed to disclose that some of the product was made from concentrate.