A New Jersey couple is calling out Taco Bell for what they say is consumer fraud. Nelson and Joann Estrella were each craving a Chalupa Cravings box—advertised as a Chalupa Supreme, 5-Layer burrito, crunchy taco, cinnamon twists, and a medium drink, all for $5—when they visited their local Taco Bell in Middlesex in May 2018, reports NJ.com. But their bill came to $12.18 before taxes, a price that management explained by referencing a fine print disclaimer. The disclaimer stating "prices may vary" did indeed appear in the TV ad, but in white text, one-sixteenth of the size of the font used to advertise the price, and "obscured" on a grey background, according to a lawsuit filed by the couple. They claim losses "in the form of time wasted driving … the gasoline expended … and in the amount of $2.18."
"While it is $2 to my clients, it is hundreds of millions to Taco Bell," says the Estrellas' attorney, Douglas Schwartz. He says he's talked to people in 25 states who were similarly misled by Taco Bell offers. The Estrellas' lawsuit cites New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Statute, which notes disclaimers must be "in a type size and style that is clear and conspicuous relative to the other type sizes and styles used in the advertisement," per the Bridgewater Courier News. In other words, "it's against the law" to "tell someone you are going to charge them $5 in big bold print and then take it away with a fine print disclaimer," says Schwartz. A rep for Taco Bell says "our advertisements are truthful and accurate, and we will defend this case vigorously." Originally filed in state Superior Court, the case was moved to federal court at Taco Bell's request. (The company is also dealing with a recall.)