Starbucks published the recall of the “Recycled Coffee Presses” on its own website and through the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission website on May 1, warning that the company had received nine reports of the press plungers breaking, resulting in nine lacerations or puncture injuries in the U.S. and Canada.
In a lawsuit filed nine days later in the Southern District of New York U.S. District Court, Bodum said Starbucks acted unilaterally in issuing the recall of the co-branded product, and that it has damaged the reputation of Bodum and its products worldwide. The company also argues that Starbucks intentionally provided “false information” in the recall designed to circumvent exclusivity provisions between the two companies, and to avoid paying for existing and future purchase orders.
“Starbucks’s unilateral actions have created a false narrative that Bodum manufactures defective products,” the suit states.
It later adds, “the false information has also negatively impacted the reputation of the quality of Bodum’s products, a reputation that Bodum has spent years building.”
Bodum and Starbucks have maintained a purchasing agreement for the purpose of selling Bodum equipment in Starbucks stores since 2002. In 2015, the two companies began work on a French press-style coffee maker that would be composed partially of recycled materials and sold exclusively through Starbucks while bearing both the Bodum and Starbucks brands, according to Bodum’s complaint.
In its recall, Starbucks said approximately 266,200 units of the Recycled French Press were sold between November of 2016 through January of 2019 for about $20 each. The company said consumers had reported the knob breaking to expose the metal rod of the plunger.
In its lawsuit, Bodum said the company urged Starbucks against moving forward with the press’s flat-shaped knob during the development and design stages in favor of a round knob. “Starbucks did not agree, and specifically demanded that a flat knob be used,” the suit alleges.
After being contacted by Starbucks representatives regarding the potential defect of the product, Bodum said it hired a third party for extensive testing, and deemed it “premature to conclude that a recall was necessary or appropriate,” according to the lawsuit.
Bodum is now claiming that Starbucks initiated the recall in part to “repair a relationship with the CSPC.”
“On more than one conference call between January and March 2019, Starbucks’s in-house counsel stated that the company was particularly sensitive to recall issues and did not want to delay the initiation of a voluntary recall because Starbucks had paid significant fines in a prior recall involving its Teavana product,” Bodum alleges.
Bodum has also suggested that the recall was motivated by Starbucks’ desire to cancel existing orders, avoid obligations to pay for orders, and to circumvent “certain exclusivity provisions contained in other agreements between the parties,” the suit states.
This is not the first French-press-related legal battle in the long working relationship between Bodum and Starbucks. In 2007, Bodum Group’s U.S. wing, Bodum USA, sued Starbucks, alleging copyright infringement for a Starbucks-made French press while seeking $10 million in damages. The suit was eventually settled before being dismissed with prejudice approximately four months after it was filed, court records show.