Court Declares Starbucks Isn’t Defrauding Anyone by Adding Ice to Drinks

Dismissed. Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Starbucks has prevailed in one of the slew of current lawsuits arguing it deceptively underfills drinks. On Friday, a U.S. District Court rejected a California customer’s claim that Starbucks purposefully puts too much ice in so it can misrepresent the amount of actual liquid. The dismissal still leaves the near-identical lawsuit filed earlier in Illinois, but the company surely welcomes one fewer piece of pending litigation impugning its ice-filling practices.

The idea behind plaintiff Alexander Forouzesh’s suit was that Starbucks instructs baristas to fill the liquid in iced drinks up to a preset fill line that’s not at the top of the cup. The remainder is ice, and that’s fraud, he claimed, because beverage sizes don’t contain the quantities advertised (12 ounces for a Tall, 16 ounces for a Grande, 24 ounces for a Venti). But Judge Percy Anderson didn’t buy that argument. “If children have figured out that including ice in a cold beverage decreases the amount of liquid they will receive,” his ruling reads, then “a reasonable consumer would not be deceived” by the ice Starbucks adds into cold drinks.

He also notes how Starbucks’s drink cups are totally clear, meaning consumers can’t miss the ice, and also that nowhere does the company say drink sizes represent ounces of pure liquid. Forouzesh’s goal had been to expand his complaint into a class action that included every Californian who’d purchased an iced Starbucks drink in the last ten years.

This cuts the number of lawsuits accusing Starbucks of drink-size fraud down to three: the other ice suit, plus two claiming it underfills hot drinks by over-aerating the milk. The company actually tried consolidating them (which would’ve helped Starbucks), but earlier this month a federal court decided those plaintiffs should each get their own day in court.

Court Says Ice in Starbucks Drinks Isn’t Defrauding Anyone