Starbucks sued by Bodum over coffee makers

Switzerland-based company takes US chain to court over its recall of French presses

Chinese customers enjoy their drinks at a store of U.S. coffee giant Starbucks in Beijing on Friday, May 10, 2019. U.S. President Donald Trump's latest tariff hike on Chinese goods took effect Friday and Beijing said it would retaliate, escalating a battle over China's technology ambitions and other trade tensions. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
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Bodum Holding sued Starbucks on Friday for alleged product disparagement in connection with the company’s recent US and Canadian recall of 263,200 co-branded French coffee presses made from recycled materials.

In a complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, Bodum said Starbucks had no basis to “unilaterally” conduct the May 1 recall because the Bodum + Starbucks presses were not defective and met required specifications.

Bodum also accused the coffee chain of creating the impression that Bodum French presses in general are defective, causing a media backlash and “significant brand damage” to the Lucerne, Switzerland-based company.

The lawsuit seeks to force Starbucks to pay all costs for the recall and pay damages to Bodum for hurting its reputation.

Starbucks believes Bodum’s claims are without merit. In a statement, it said it recalled the French presses because of customer complaints, and stood by the decision because it took employee and customer safety “very seriously”.

Bodum is among the best-known makers of French presses, and has sold them at Starbucks under a 2002 purchasing agreement.

People use the presses by adding ground beans and hot water to a pot and, after steeping, pushing down on a plunger to make coffee.

Starbucks said it recalled presses sold from November 2016 to January 2019 for about $20 (Dh73) each after receiving nine reports of broken plunger knobs, resulting in lacerations or punctures.

According to the complaint, Starbucks recalled the presses even though laboratory tests found no evidence of product or design defects, because it had become “particularly sensitive to recall issues” after paying large fines in an earlier recall.

Bodum also said Starbucks plans to expand the recall to Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region, an “unwarranted” action that is causing “unacceptable damage to the Bodum brand worldwide.”