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Smashburger settlement spotlights lingering impact of problematic Triple Double Burger campaign

Marketing hype or false advertising? The impact of this 2017 marketing campaign drags on.
Smashburger
The settlement stems from a 2017 marketing campaign for the Triple Double Burger. /Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

Consumers who bought a Smashburger Triple Double Burger more than three years ago may be in for a bit of cash or free food.

The offer is part of a class-action settlement of a lingering lawsuit in which the Smashburger chain was charged with false and misleading advertising.

The parent of fast-casual Smashburger has agreed to pay $2.5 million in cash and another $1.5 million in vouchers to consumers (and attorneys) to settle the case. Smashburger continues to deny wrongdoing and the court did not rule in favor of either party.

The lawsuit stemmed from a 2017 marketing campaign for the Triple Double Burger, which had two layers of beef and three layers of cheese that brand founder and then-CEO Tom Ryan pitched as having “twice the beef” and “three times the cheese” in every bite.

Triple Double

The Triple Double Burger campaign was launched in 2017./Photo courtesy of Smashburger.

First, Smashburger was sued in 2017 by rival In-N-Out Burger, which was initially concerned about trademark infringement. In-N-Out has historically been very protective of its iconic Double Double burger.

But later, In-N-Out added a complaint of false advertising, arguing that Smashburger’s Triple Double burger patties were half the weight of meat found in the classic burger on the menu, so the Triple Double Burger did not, in fact, have double the beef, but the same amount.

In 2019, a District Court judge in that case agreed that the claim was “literally false.” That case was also later settled, according to court filings.

But the more recent settlement is tied to a separate class-action suit that makes similar claims of false and misleading advertising, unfair competition, fraud, breach of warranty and unjust enrichment.

The more-recent lawsuit targets Smashburger IP Holder LLC and Smashburger Franchising LLC. The 370-unit Smashburger chain is now owned by  the Philippines-based foodservice company Jollibee Foods Corp.

In the original complaint filed Feb. 8, 2019 in the U.S. District Court in Central California, plaintiff Andre Galvan, a resident of Agoura Hills, Calif., and purchaser of about 10 Triple Double Burgers, argued that the Triple Double actually contained two patties that are each half the size of Smashburger’s Classic Smash burgers. Therefore, the Triple Double Burgers had the same amount of beef, not double.

The case was later consolidated with other similar lawsuits and granted class-action status. After mediation, a settlement agreement was reached in September.

Neither Smashburger, nor attorneys representing plaintiffs on the class-action side, responded to requests for comment.

The result? Consumers who bought a Triple Double Burger, as well as variations including the Bacon Triple Double, the French Onion Triple Double and the Pub Triple Double, may be entitled to $4 for each product purchased between July 1, 2017 and May 31, 2019, and up to $20 per household without proof of purchase.

Alternatively, consumers without proof of purchase could choose up to 10 product vouchers that can be redeemed with a regular-price entrée for an upgrade of a single-beef-patty burger to a double (worth about $2.50) or a free small fountain drink (about $3.09).

It’s not known how many will be eligible until claim forms (which can be found at www.burgersettlement.com) are in. The deadline is Jan. 17, 2023, and a hearing to approve the settlement is scheduled for Jan. 30, 2023.

The Triple Double Burger and related products are no longer on Smashburger’s menu.

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