Carter's Accused Of Sending Emails With False Subject Lines

Baby clothing retailer Carter’s is under fire for sending emails with an allegedly misleading subject line on discounts. 

Attorneys are seeking class-action status for a lawsuit charging Carter’s with violating the Washington Commercial Electronic Mail Act, which prohibits false subject lines. 

According to a complaint prepared by the law firm of Hattis & Lukacs, of Bellevue, Washington, Maribell Aguilar, a Yakima County consumer, received an email from Carter’s with this subject line: “50-70% OFF EVERYTHING.”

Aguilar understood that to mean that “Carter’s was offering items at prices in its retail stores and on its website which were 50% to 70% lower than Carter’s own regular or prevailing prices for those items,” the complaint states.

Accordingly, she visited a Carter’s store in Union Gap, Washington and purchased some items. However, she did not receive the discounts promised in the subject line, the complaint says.

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That is because the purported discounts were “actually reductions from Carter’s Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (“MSRP”),” it adds.

The complaint claims that “there was nothing in the Email subject line (such as an asterisk) which communicated to Ms. Aguilar or an ordinary consumer that the advertised discounts were reductions from something other than Carter’s regular or prevailing price.”

In addition, Carter’s is its own manufacturer and “intentionally sets the MSRP at an inflated dollar amount which Carter’s knows with certainty is grossly above the true market price for the product,” the complaint alleges.

The company’s policy is to “give each product a price tag with this self-created, inflated MSRP,” it says.

The word “everything” was also false, the attorneys charge. “At least 500 items were excluded from the sale advertised in the Email subject line and potentially upward of 1,700 items were excluded,” the complaint states.

Carter's responded to a query from MediaPost by saying that it does not comment on pending legal matters. 

Whatever the merits of the case, it illustrates the challenges faced by email copywriters in today’s regulatory environment. The attorneys believe the firm is continuing to send the messages.

The complaint, reportedly on file with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, seeks injunctive and monetary relief. 

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