Is McDonald’s Violating Massachusetts Law?

From our Late to the Party desk (via

Two weeks ago, the Center for Science in the Public Interest served McDonald’s “a notice of its intent to sue, fulfilling a legal requirement of several states in which CSPI might bring the lawsuit.”

According to the CSPI press release:

“McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children,” said CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner. “McDonald’s use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children’s developmental immaturity—all this to induce children to prefer foods that may harm their health. It’s a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction.”

The notice of intent to sue – which “demands that McDonald’s USA, LLC (“McDonald’s”) immediately stop using toys to market Happy Meals to young children” – employs even more inflammatory language:

In short, McDonald’s is deliberately marketing directly to unsuspecting little children by offering appealing toys—usually ones related to popular movies or television shows. McDonald’s marketing has the effect of conscripting America’s children into an unpaid drone army of word-of-mouth marketers, causing them to nag their parents to bring them to McDonald’s.

McDonald’s practices are predatory and wrong. They are also illegal, because marketing to kids under eight is (1) inherently deceptive, because young kids are not developmentally advanced enough to understand the persuasive intent of marketing; and (2) unfair to parents, because marketing to children undermines parental authority and interferes with their ability to raise healthy children.

An unpaid drone army of word-of-mouth marketers.

Paging Jerry Bruckheimer. Paging Mr. Jerry Bruckheimer.

But wait . . . there’s . . .

More specifically, and for purposes of our notice of intent to sue, McDonald’s has engaged in unfair and deceptive acts and practices by advertising and including toys with purchases of Happy Meals. McDonald’s practices violate state consumer protection laws, such as Massachusetts G.L. c. 93A, Texas Business & Professions Code § 17.41 et seq., District of Columbia Code § 28-3905 et seq., New Jersey Statutes Ann. 56:8-1 et seq., and California Business & Professions Code Section 17200.

(Not to get technical about it, but here’s Massachusetts G.L. c. 93A.)

This is no slam-dunk for CSPI, but it might be a slim-dunk. From the Time piece:

While the company says it hasn’t ruled out acting on CSPI’s demands, McDonald’s is clearly irked. “The tone of the letter is completely unprofessional and destroys their credibility,” says Walt Riker, vice president of corporate communications for McDonald’s. “The characterizations are completely out of bounds and don’t come close to representing the truth.” Riker wouldn’t point to specific passages, but it’s safe to assume calling McDonald’s “duplicitous” and its marketing practices “predatory” failed to ingratiate CSPI with the company.

Then again, “ingratiating” isn’t exactly what CSPI is about.

Bottom line in the notice to sue:

CSPI will postpone filing suit if it can obtain McDonald’s agreement to stop its use of toys to market Happy Meals.

This offer of settlement will remain open for 30 days from the date of this letter, after which it shall be automatically withdrawn and become null and void.

After which Happy Meals could conceivably become null and void.

Which is sort of . . . inconceivable.

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1 Response to Is McDonald’s Violating Massachusetts Law?

  1. Pingback: The Center For Suing In The Public Interest | Campaign Outsider

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