Who: Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
Where: New York, USA
When: 29 September 2016
Law stated as at: 8 November 2016
A KFC customer is suing the fast food chain in the Dutchess County Court (State of New York) for $20 million for alleged misleading advertising and deceptive trade practices.
Fried chicken enthusiast Anna Wurtzburger (the “Claimant“), paid $20 for a bucket of chicken sold by KFC as the “Family Fill-Up”, but on arriving home was dismayed to find the bucket half full with only eight pieces of chicken.
The Claimant points out that the “Family Fill-Up” TV adverts show a bucket “overflowing with chicken”, thereby leading consumers to believe they would get more chicken than is in fact on offer.
“I came home and said, ‘Where’s the chicken?’ I thought I was going to have a couple of meals”, she reportedly told the New York Post.
The Claimant phoned KFC’s headquarters to complain about her half-full Fill-Up and was apparently informed that the bucket in the advert was designed to look as if it were full to the brim in order to allow the public to actually see the chicken. This, the Claimant claims, shows that KFC “was aware that [it] was intentionally misleading and deceiving the public when it advertised an overflowing bucket of chicken on television but knew that they would only sell 8 pieces of chicken to the public and to [the Claimant]“.
The advert does not specify the number of pieces, but does claim that the product will feed a family of four. The KFC menu, on the other hand, states that the Family Fill-Up comes with exactly eight pieces of chicken, which the Claimant received (although she claims that eight pieces wouldn’t feed a whole family in any event as they’re too small).
A KFC spokesperson has indicated to Fortune that the company believes the claim is “meritless”. “The guest received exactly what she requested. She purchased an eight-piece bucket of chicken and she indeed received eight pieces of chicken. Our menus and advertising clearly show our $20 Fill Up meal includes eight pieces of chicken.”
Why this matters:
As evidenced by the recent ASA ruling against Birds Eye (see here), KFC could run into trouble with the ASA if the “Family Fill-Up” advert was shown in England.
UK advertisers must be very careful not to exaggerate potential portion sizes. The ASA found that Birds Eye had breached CAP Code rule 3.1, which prohibits adverts that materially mislead consumers or are likely to do so. In that case, the ASA held the advertiser had used slightly more than one packet of a ready meal at certain points throughout an ad without adequately disclosing this fact.
Food advertisers should ensure that the product shown on screen accurately reflects the product on sale. Any differences in the image and the real product need to be avoided if possible, or very clearly called out in the advert itself to avoid consumers being misled. It is unlikely to be sufficient to locate key information or the main characteristics of a product (i.e. the amount of food being sold) solely on a separate menu available in-store.