A beer-drinking football fan has filed suit against MillerCoors, alleging that the brewing titan gave him no chance of winning a sweepstakes being marketed to Coors Light drinkers.
Mario Aliano, of Illinois, picked up a case of ice cold Coors Light after he saw an ad touting the "Coors Light Silver Ticket Sweepstakes," a contest entering Coors drinkers to win NFL-themed prizes. The sweepstakes offers a grand prize of two tickets to a 2009 regular-season NFL game, and a "first prize" of a $100 gift certificate to the NFL's online store. The sweepstakes runs from August 1 until October 31.
Under the terms of the sweepstakes, a unique code is placed in each Coors Light carton. Consumers can either enter the code on the official sweepstakes website or text it to a Coors-provided phone number to see if they have won.
Aliano took the beer home and twice tried to enter his code on the sweepstakes website. Both times, Aliano's suit claims, he received an error message calling his code "invalid." He then attempted to have Coors text the results to his cell phone, but again received the same message.
The suit says that Coors printed ads for the sweepstakes right on the side of Coors Light cartons, enticing shoppers already perusing the beer aisle to opt for a case of the infamous "Silver Bullet."
Aliano is bringing the suit as a class action, on behalf of everyone in the U.S. who bought sweepstakes-eligible Coors or Coors Light beer and were told they had an invalid code. Aliano's complaint alleges that Coors issued around five million tickets bearing invalid codes, and that, had class members known this, they wouldn't have bought the beer in the first place. The complaint points out that a consumer would have no way of knowing if his code was invalid before entering it on the website.
While Aliano's outrage will probably resonate with football fans and Coors drinkers everywhere, the case will likely be an uphill battle for the putative class. First, and most importantly, it will be very difficult to prove that every class member bought the beer in anticipation of entering Coors's sweepstakes. There are plenty of consumers who buy Coors on a regular basis, and many of them are football fans anyway -- after all, Coors is the official beer of the NFL. Individual issues of causation routinely doom consumer class actions, and Aliano is likely to have a hard time convincing a judge that his case is appropriate for class treatment.
Additionally, and more fundamentally, Aliano doesn't explain why he thinks that millions of consumers have received invalid codes. The complaint alleges that Coors has received "hundreds" of complaints about the issue, but goes no further than that. Granted, the barest factual allegations are enough to file a complaint, but Aliano seems to be stretching a bit here.
Miller and MolsonCoors, two giant American brewers, merged in 2007 to better compete with brewers like Anheuser Busch (which has since merged with InBev, a Belgian company). Coors has had its share of high-profile directors, including current chairman Pete Coors, who made an unsuccessful 2004 bid for the U.S. Senate in Colorado.