Abercrombie & Fitch could soon learn a huge lesson in bad marketing practices. A federal judge has given the go-ahead to a class-action lawsuit against the retailer that alleges it handed out gift cards with no expiration date only to later tell customers that their cards had expired.
In December 2009, A&F ran a promotion that gave away $25 gift cards to customers who purchased at least $100 worth of stuff at one time. Printed on the card is text that reads, “This gift card is redeemable at all Abercrombie & Fitch locations. … No expiration date.”
But the plaintiffs in the case say when they tried to redeem their cards in April 2010, they were told the cards had expired in January 2010.
Abercrombie has defended its actions by saying that the cards had originally been given to customers in sleeves that stated the 1/30/2010 expiration date.
The retailer also tried to argue against granting class-action status to the suit by point out that some customers were aware of the proper expiration date.
But the judge wasn’t having any of that.
“Abercrombie’s reference to individuals who ‘knew the Promotion Cards expired on January 30’ does not advance its cause,” he explains. “Because the question whether the cards expired has yet to be decided, no cardholder could know that the cards expired in January 2010. The category of individuals Abercrombie means to describe are those who believed the cards expired on January 30, 2010. Even if that category includes more than a handful of persons — and there is no evidence of record that anybody held that belief — their inclusion in the class does not pose an individual issue, let alone one that predominates over the common issues.”
The judge also shot down Abercrombie’s argument that the class would be to difficult to ascertain.
“The class in this case consists primarily of individuals holding an Abercrombie promotional gift card whose value was voided on or around January 30, 2010,” he writes. “That criterion is as objective as they come. The class also includes individuals who threw away their cards because they were told that the balances had been voided. That criterion is not as objective as actually holding a physical card, but anybody claiming class membership on that basis will be required to submit an appropriate affidavit.”
He pointed out that, should it lose the case, Abercrombie could post notices about the settlement at its retail locations or online.
Abercrombie Shoppers Certify Gift Card Dispute [CourthouseNews.com]