Ohio Consumer Law Blog

Information on Ohio's Consumer Laws from Attorney Daniel Myers, Myers Law, LLC, not legal advice

Ohio Consumer Files Class Action Against Ulta Over “Free Gift” Charge

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.

By leaving a comment or contacting Myers Law, LLC, you authorize Myers Law, LLC to communicate with you concerning this matter. No attorney-client relationship is created merely by contacting Myers Law, LLC. Myers Law, LLC does not represent anyone without a prior meeting a specific written attorney-client agreement.

3 comments on “Ohio Consumer Files Class Action Against Ulta Over “Free Gift” Charge

  1. Geeta Galaway
    November 26, 2017

    I just got tricked into purchasing a hair dryer known to burn people using the term SALE and FREE GIFT on the picture of the actual item. The product terms on moble devices you have to click for it to scroll to the bottom of the page for their vague description of what it takes to qualify for this free gift. In my past experience if the item itself said it has a free gift you got one. I was charged for past things too. They said I had to pay tax on the free item.
    In this case though it seems that if you go look on their site especially with your moble device you can see the 50% off hot tools hair dryers, flat irons etc. On their site right now. The blow dryer says free gift and sale… so I am doing black Friday shopping and the stuff sells out quickly… or it seems it does… so I don’t look past the item description before clicking to purchase. I didn’t even know what the free gift was supposed to be… I was like oh cool and clicked it and moved on. Then when I checked our I noticed it wasn’t there and sent an email asking where my gift was and was given a few offensive responses that were obvious lied and showed zero intention to want to fix the situation.

    The emails say this. I also sent screen shots of my perspective on how I was mislead which I told them is illegal.

    Ulta Beauty

    If this issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, you may reopen it within the next 7 days by responding to this email.
    Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.

    Order Issue

    Guest Services Elizabeth Curry (11/25/2017 04:26 PM)
    Hello Geeta,

    You recently reached out about your recent order which you had purchased a Hot Tools hair dryer and was supposed to attach a free gift. We’re happy to help!

    The qualifying amount for the flat iron is $39.99, and the hair dryer you purchased was on sale for $30, which does not qualify for the free gift. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope this information helps!

    If you have any other questions, you can respond directly to this email.

    Thanks so much,

    Ulta Beauty Guest Services

    Geeta Galaway (11/25/2017 06:35 AM)
    The free gift for the blow drier didn’t show up to add or get applied. Where and what is It? That’s why I picked that one.
    Reference Number: 171125-000340

    Geeta Galaway (11/25/2017 04:45 PM)
    False advertising. That’s illegal. If you aren’t giving out the gift then it should not be posted that you get one at the price. Anywhere you go if a store says that you get that and then you don’t because of false advertising you should get it for free. In this case it was free… and off by 5 bucks? Seriously send this to your manager. Customer service is everything and you’re failing. Here is an attachment of what the picture says and you’re using it to swindle people out of their money with this false advertising. Like I said I picked it BECAUSE IT SAID IT CAME WITH A FREE GIFT. fdssmh..

    Guest Services Danielle C. (11/25/2017 04:54 PM)
    Hello Geeta,

    Thanks for reaching out about our recent {insert name of offer.}

    We’re very sorry you weren’t able to take advantage of the offer as a result of the item being out of stock. Turns out, it was really popular and flew off our shelves. Don’t worry, we have many promotions heading your way soon as well as many other items currently offering free gifts as a way to snag a little something extra with your purchase!

    We love to surprise and delight our guests with special promotions, and do it often!

    We appreciate you taking the time to share your comments and concerns as it provides us with an opportunity to improve. If we can be of any further assistance, please let us know as we’re here to help.


    Guest Services Danielle C.
    Ulta Beauty Guest Services
    The item I alreasy purchased was out of stock. I got one of the last ones. Yes it sold out quick… because they tricked people. However, the free gift isn’t sold out so this response comes off to me as not caring at all about the customer who spends thousands on their items.

    Geeta Galaway (11/25/2017 09:30 PM)
    Oh you’re using that excuse now? I doubt it was sold out when I ordered. Wow. What a shit company. I think I will just stick to using too faced and Sephora, and I plan on posting this for the entire world to see. Don’t under estimate my influence. It’s not about the gift… it’s the lying and lack of dignity. It’s the principal and the way you are treating me like I am an idiot when I am far from it. Btw I asked you to forward this to a supervisor and you didn’t do that as well Danielle dumbass. Happy shitty holiday to you now that you’ve sold your soul to answer emails part time for a company who couldn’t care any less for you than you care for me.

    I then sent an email with screen shots stating state and federal law and highlighting the illegal things they did to swindle me. I stated with it.

    Geeta Galaway (11/25/2017 10:16 PM)
    By the way it’s still illegal and expect to be compensated. This issue is not resolved to my satisfaction at all. You need to forward this to your supervisors so they can learn the law. I wonder how many more customers you’ve screwed over? Class action lawsuit time? How much is this worth to You? So easy to contact millions in one day now days.

    Guest Services Taylor F. (11/26/2017 02:43 AM)
    Hello Geeta,

    You recently reached out about needing a Supervisor.

    My name is Taylor and I am a supervisor at Ulta Guest Services. I want to begin by saying we do apologize for the confusion in this situation. This gift was available with a Hot Tools purchase of $39.99 or more. It does state this on our sale. This item in particular says +Free Gift to signify it is one of the items that are included in this, to reach the $39.99 threshold. It states on our website to “Click here for details” under the promotion itself. However, because we now see this may not be the most ideal location we will be escalating this to our marketing team to address. At this time we are unable to compensate as it does show that threshold. However, because we want to help as much as possible if you want to reorder this we would be happy to honor that sale price for you.

    If you have any other questions, you can respond directly to this email.

    Thanks so much,

    Guest Services Taylor F.
    Ulta Beauty Guest Services
    They seem to not care to aknowlege that I already purchased the item.
    You would think they would at least let me spend the 10 bucks difference to make up the difference, because the info I went and found didn’t clarify what had to be done to reach the 39.99 even though the original purchase price is 59.99. The fine print didn’t specify if another product could even be used to make up the difference. I spent more than 39.99 with my purchase fyi.
    Geeta Galaway (11/26/2017 07:45 AM)
    Reorder the hair dryer? For 1 it’s sold out now and 2 I already have it on the way. I don’t want to buy 2. I don’t want to cancel and reorder. When on my phone you have to scroll all the way to the bottom to see this gift info. It’s not within 2 scrolling screens. On my previous order of 200 dollars it came with a free gift with perfume purchase. It was some tumblers and coasters? Said to cost 40 bucks lol. I can get tumblers and coasters for 5 bucks. I didn’t even know what the gift was supposed to be. Generally the gifts are pretty cheap but can make cute stocking stuffers. Probably not the plastic cups though. I don’t even use plastic. I prefer glass. But I thought I was gonna get SOMETHING. With sales at this time I don’t have time to search your site for fine print. If I do I miss out on them. But it sucks when what made your final purchasing decision is false and misleading. No where does it say you can even buy 2 products in the brand to make up the difference. There is literally no good info on how to get this elusive free gift. I have bought stuff online before and in my experience everything I posted to buy came with the gift without hastle in store and online. Obviously there are still free gifts left they are still available for other products. So thats not true. Are you saying you’re not sending the product I ordered? What’s happening with my order? I AM NOT cancelling it. It’s sold out and I bought one. The ignorance of this situation just blows my mind. This is very horrible customer service. What did she mean when she said they’re out of free gifts? Did she mean they aren’t going to honor my order because I inquired about my free gift that I was lead to believe I would get? I figured it was an error and being a supposed decent company it could be worked out in one or 2 emails.
    I don’t want anymore correspondence… I just want you to do the right thing. If you want to go on being more offensive by treating me like I’m trying to “steal” something or whatever you call people who do all of the coupon clipping. I am not. I am an ordained minister and deliverance minister. Not that it means I’m perfect but I don’t lie. If you don’t want to honor the gift then just send my order and I will be letting the world know through not only reviews but blogging and conversations with very popular or you may call famous friends about this. Maybe a few people have been mislead.. and maybe there is a lawyer who will want to make a case… But you may be trying to save 10 bucks on a flat iron… But I promise in the long run you will lose a lot more than 10 dollars.
    Good day
    Btw I don’t care if I get 1 red cent. These people need to be held accountable… becasuse if one company gets away with it then others do it too and the law is worthless and doesn’t serve it’s purpose if everyone ignored it. And the victim of the crime doesn’t want to deal with it so most they get away with.
    ———— their last response ——

    Guest Services Tomela R. (11/26/2017 11:01 AM)
    Hello Geeta,

    Thank you for your response. For your Hot Tools product to qualify for the free gift, you must spend $39.99 on Hot Tools products. It is stated on the site. Your item Turbo Ceramic Salon Ionic Dryer was only $30. Your purchase did not qualify for the free gift. We truly apologize for the inconvenience. We will not honor the free gift due to your order not qualifying. You are able to return the item and then repurchase to qualify for the free gift.

    Thanks so much,
    Ulta Beauty Guest Services

    ULTA is supposed to be the biggest beauty supply chain… can they seriously not afford to somehow try and give some sort of effort to try and make up for all of the lies and everything they just pulled on me? I am in the beauty business myself and I wouldn’t do this and my only employee is me. Let alone a multimillion dollar… If not more company. I will send the screen shots if you like and a sworn affidavit if needed. I don’t need anything but the satisfaction of knowing they’re being held accountable.

    If you made it this far, thanks for reading.
    God Bless and Happy Holidays!

    • Kistagirl
      January 28, 2018

      Sheesh, just let it go. Obviously you did not make the requirements for the gift. It happens. I spend thousands at sephora and 90 percent of the times never get my 3 free samples, nor the promotion for spending x..y..z amount…its not the end of the world.

  2. Silent Majority
    October 6, 2020

    Unfortunately, many consumers become disillusioned and “accept” the deceptive practices of corporations who would rather pay for customer service agents to spend their time repeatedly spinning excuses for their transgressions rather than improving customer service and building a content customer base. It is very important to understand that as long as people “accept” this behavior, then the harder it will be for fairness and honesty to return to business practices. It is the lone consumer who has the guts and the passion and decency to fight, not only for herself, but for all others, that can possibly make a difference and make a change for better business practices. All too often corporations have profited largely by targeting and exploiting the weak, such as senior citizens. The corporations who walk a fine line between decency and deception, as well as those that blatantly exploit consumers, need to be held accountable. Consumers need to demand fulfillment on “promises” made by advertisements or misleading marketing strategies. Complacency has lead to consumers losing their rights, privileges, and even being harmed by dangerous products. If you stop caring about one simple thing, then it becomes easier to stop caring about other things and eventually, that behavior leads down a slippery road to an existence that is meaningless and manipulated by many factors and agents. People need to revive their sense of self-worth, dignity, and decency with the hope that caring for yourself will restore the strength and passion to stand up for what is right and fair and decent for all. If the purchase of a product was obtained through deception or misrepresentation or misleading advertisement, then how can you possibly have any faith that the company is not cheating in any other area such as the ingredients or components of a product. Do not enrich and support companies who conduct in deceptive business practices. You are only allowing them to get richer and more powerful. Support the company that treats you with respect and honesty, even if you have to pay a little more. It is worth it and you are worth it.

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This entry was posted on July 5, 2017 by in By Daniel Myers, Class Action, Consumer Law, Ohio.


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