Anheuser-Busch has agreed to resolve a class-action lawsuit that says the brewer’s line of “Ritas” malt beverages don’t contain any distilled spirits or wine, despite packaging that suggests they’re margaritas, mojitos and wine spritzers.
In a complaint filed in the US. District Court of Southern New York in September 2020, plaintiffs Megan Browning and Adam Kesselring accused the brewing company of false advertising, fraud and breach of warranty by using terms like “sparkling margarita,” “mojito” “sangria” and “rosé,” in packaging, as well as images of cocktail and wine glasses.
Only a small disclaimer on the bottom of the box indicates Ritas are actually “malt beverage[s] with natural flavors and caramel color,” according to the complaint.
Anheuser-Busch declined to comment on the case but, in court filings, the company said its desire to settle the dispute was not an admission of wrongdoing.
Below, find out if you qualify for a payment from Anheuser-Busch, how much you could get and when checks could start going out.
What is Anheuser-Busch accused of in this class action lawsuit?
In 2012, Anheuser-Busch introduced Bud Light Lime Ritas, a line of 8% alcohol flavored malt beverages available in eight-ounce and 25-ounce cans.
But, according to plaintiffs in Browning, et al., v. Anheuser-Busch, despite names like “Lime-a-Rita” and “Straw-ber-Rita” — and advertising that touts its “classic margarita flavor”– the beverages contain no tequila, liquor or wine, “just flavored beers that taste like margaritas, mojitos or wines.”
“Reasonable consumers did not know, and had no reason to know, that the products were, and continue to be, falsely and deceptively packaged,” the plaintiffs contend. “Nowhere on the front, sides, or top panel of the packaging… does [Anheuser-Busch] state that the products do not have distilled liquor or wine.”
They maintain they wouldn’t have purchased the beverages if they knew what was in it, or paid as much as they did.
In addition to the cash payout, Anheuser-Busch — which also manufactures Budweiser and Michelob — has agreed to change its marketing to better inform consumers about the nature of the Ritas line. Packaging will now contain the phrase “malt beverage” and the Ritas website will also disclose that the product line “does not contain distilled spirits.”
Who is eligible for a payment from the Anheuser-Busch settlement?
Any adult 21 or over who purchased one or more of the 112 different Ritas beverage options between Jan. 1, 2018, and July 19, 2022, is eligible to file a claim. Proof of purchase is not required.
How much is Anheuser-Busch compensating ‘Rita’ drinkers?
The total cash amount hasn’t been disclosed, but according to the proposed settlement, class members can receive a cash payment based on the number and size of Ritas beverages they purchased between Jan. 1, 2018, and July 19, 2022.
No receipt is required, though class members with proof of purchase can collect up to $21.25 per household. Those without proof of purchase are capped at $9.75.
The proposed breakdown of payments is as follows:
For eight-ounce cans, consumers can receive 30 cents for each four-pack purchased or 60 cents for every case (24-pack).
For 12-ounce bottles or cans, consumers can receive 15 cents for every four-pack, 25 cents for each six-pack, 45 cents for each 12-pack and 85 cents for every case.
For 16-ounce cans, class members will receive 20 cents for each four-pack or 30 cents for each six-pack.
For every 22-ounce bottle, class members can receive 10 cents.
For 25-ounce cans, class members can receive 10 cents for a single can or 15 cents for a two-pack.
Any other Ritas product not listed above is eligible for a 50-cent payment.
The deadline to file a valid claim is Dec. 16, 2022. The deadline to be excluded from the settlement and retain the right to file a separate lawsuit is Nov. 11, 2022.
Browning v. Anheuser-Busch Administrator
P.O. Box 5176
Portland, OR 97208-5176
When will I receive payment?
A hearing to give final approval to the deal is scheduled for Dec. 2, 2022. After then, appeals may be filed and legal fees disbursed.
According to the proposed settlement, payments must be completed within six months of the Dec. 2 hearing.
For more on class action settlements, find out if you’re eligible for money from Capital One’s $190 million payout, T-Mobile’s $350 million data breach case or Snapchat’s $35 million biometric privacy settlement.
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