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Amoco ads not fraudulent: state high court

November 24, 2010

The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of Amoco Oil Co. in a lawsuit that attacked a series of Amoco advertisements about its premium grade gasoline. The CATA supported Amoco in its litigation. A class action suit charged that Amoco violated Section 2 of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act by falsely representing in a series of ads that use of its premium gasoline would improve engine performance and benefit the environment.

Amoco, the suit alleged, increased demand for its premium gas, which enabled it to "command an inflated and otherwise unsustainable price" for the grade. As a result, all purchasers of Amoco's premium gasoline allegedly were injured, "irrespective of whether they did or did not see or hear the specific advertisement and marketing materials in question." The CATA filed an amicus curia brief in the case, Oliveira vs. Amoco Oil Co., supporting Amoco's contention that Oliveira's "marketing theory" of causation was a legally insufficient statement of proximate causation.

The Illinois high court upheld Amoco's contention, noting the plaintiff failed to allege that he was, in any manner, deceived by Amoco's ads or that he received anything other than what he expected to receive when he purchased the gas, namely, a certain amount of gasoline with a certain octane level, for the price listed at the pump. The court also noted that because the plaintiff did not allege that he saw, heard or read any of Amoco's ads, he cannot maintain that he believed he was buying gasoline that benefited the environment or improved engine performance.

The ruling could deflect suits against other corporate advertisers, including automobile advertisers, helping them to avoid facing similar class action litigation, unless it can be shown that the entire plaintiff class saw or heard a specific advertisement.