A $15 million settlement resolving allegations that Godiva Chocolatier Inc. misled consumers about where chocolate was produced received preliminary approval from a New York federal court.
New Yorker Steve Hesse and Californian Adam Buxbaum alleged that they and others paid a premium for Godiva chocolate products because the marketing phrase “Belgium 1926" made them believe Pennsylvania-made confections were produced in Belgium, known for fine chocolate.
The settlement covers anyone who purchased any Godiva chocolate product in the U.S. between Jan. 31, 2015, and Oct. 26, 2021. Godiva has agreed to pay up to $15 million in valid claims.
Class members with proof of purchase may recover up to $25. Those who can’t substantiate that they bought Godiva chocolates are eligible for up to $15.
If the claims exceed $15 million, each class member’s benefit will be reduced.
The deal is fair and provides benefits comparable to those achieved in other settlements of geographic origin challenges, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said Tuesday.
For example, it said, a settlement in a suit that alleged certain beers were deceptively portrayed as brewed in Hawaii provided up to $20 for class members with proof of purchase and $10 for those without.
Separately, the deal allows the plaintiffs’ lawyers to seek up to $5 million in fees and costs. They may also seek $5,000 service awards for Hesse and Buxbaum.
Judge Alison J. Nathan set a final approval hearing for March 28.
Faruqi & Faruqi LLP and Wand Law Firm PC represent the plaintiffs. Perkins Coie LLP represents Godiva.
The case is Hesse v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc., S.D.N.Y., No. 1:19-cv-00972, 10/26/21.