Information on Ohio's Consumer Laws from Attorney Daniel Myers, Myers Law, LLC, not legal advice
A Cleveland-area consumer recently filed a class action lawsuit against bath & body product company Ulta, claiming that the national retailer charges its customers for “free gifts” in violation of Ohio law. According to the lawsuit, consumers who buy enough products to qualify for a “free gift” are charged for that free gift, making it not free, at all.
The class action seeks a refund for people who paid for a “free gift” from any Ohio Ulta location. Under Ohio consumer protection laws, it also seeks a court-ordered injunction to either prohibit Ulta from using the word “free” in its advertisement and promotions, or to force Ulta to change its system so that it no longer charges for its free gifts.
The lawsuit, filed by consumer protection attorney Dan Myers of Myers Law, LLC is captioned, Zachary van Brakle v. Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance, Inc., Case No. CV17882631. It was filed in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in Cleveland, Ohio, and is pending before Judge David Matia.
In the lawsuit, the consumer alleges that he went to an Ulta location in Strongsville, Ohio to purchase sunscreen, and was informed the purchase qualified for a “free gift.” According to the Complaint, Ulta advertises free gifts both in-store and on its website if customers buy certain products or spend a certain amount. Van Brakle alleges that when he received the item Ulta said would be a free, Ulta charged him for it.
Under the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act (“CSPA”), Ohio Revised Code 1345.01 et seq., it is “a deceptive act or practice” for a business to use the word “free” or “gift” to describe something to a consumer that is not actually free. Ohio consumer laws regulate when and how a company can use the word “free” or words “free gift.” These regulations prevent companies from deceiving consumers in their advertisements or during the sales process.
For example, a company is not allowed to offer a “free gift” with the purchase of another item if the cost to the consumer is more than the purchased-item’s regular price. This lawsuit alleges that Ulta’s use of the word “free” is deceptive because Ulta is doing just that, charging more for the purchased-item and free gift combined than the purchased-item’s regular price. According to the Complaint, “Ulta is engaged in a pattern and practice of systematically deceiving its customers, breaching its sale agreements, and violating Ohio consumers’ right to [know] the truth about the transactions they enter into with Ulta.”
The lawsuit not only requests refunds for the consumers charged for free items, but also a court order permanently prohibiting Ulta from using the word “free” or “free gift” in its advertising unless the offered items are actually free. The lawsuit also requests a court order to force Ulta to correct its sale software to prevent these charges from occurring again. The Complaint states that these court orders are needed to protect the “right of consumers to not be deceived or treated unfairly by a company when buying goods or services.”
According to comments on one website, others have claimed or implied that Ulta has been charging its customers for free items as long ago as Fall 2016, if not earlier.
If you would like to learn more information about this lawsuit, or would like to share your story about a company charging you for “free” goods or services, feel free to contact Myers Law, LLC by sending an email to info@MyersLawLLC.com, calling the firm at 216-236-8202, or filling out the form below. Feel free to leave a comment, as well.
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