No wings, but maybe US$10: Red Bull settles false ad suit

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A can of Red Bull won't give you wings, but those who bought the energy drink and were disappointed could end up with a few extra bucks, thanks to a class-action lawsuit.

According to the Morelli Alters Ratner law firm in New York, the Austrian drink maker recently agreed to pay US$13 million (S$16.25 million) to settle a false advertising complaint.

Known for its slogan that the caffeinated drink "gives you wings", Red Bull was sued over claims it could boost performance, concentration and reaction speed, thereby charging a premium price, the law firm said in a statement.

"In fact, plaintiffs allege that Red Bull doesn't provide any more benefit to consumers than a cup of coffee," the statement read.

Anyone who has bought Red Bull since Jan 1, 2002 is eligible to claim either US$10 in cash or two Red Bull products with a value of about US$15, with Red Bull paying the postage.

But if more than 1.3 million people ask for a refund, the drink maker's US$13-million limit will kick in, so pay-out amounts would be watered-down.

Thanks to the story being widely circulated in US media this week, the number of claimants is likely to be high.

After Buzzfeed wrote about the case on Wednesday, the web site for filing claims crashed.

Red Bull said in a statement that it settled the lawsuit to avoid the "cost and distraction of litigation".

"However, Red Bull maintains that its marketing and labelling have always been truthful and accurate, and denies any and all wrongdoing or liability," it added.

The lawsuit's first plaintiff, Benjamin Careathers, who was joined later by others, accused Red Bull in 2013 of ignoring studies in the scientific journal Nutrition Reviews and other publications, who said Red Bull offered no more benefit than a regular cup of coffee.

The settlement still needs to be approved at a May 1, 2015 court hearing in New York.

According to Red Bull's website, 5.3 billion cans of the drink were sold worldwide in 2013.