Broward County

They like a Quarter Pounder without cheese. So they're suing McDonald's for $5 million

A McDonald's Quarter Pounder, left, and Double Quarter Pound burger.
A McDonald's Quarter Pounder, left, and Double Quarter Pound burger. AP

Two South Florida McDonald's customers think the fast-food giant is being awfully cheesy with how it charges customers for a signature item that has been on its menu since 1975.

According to a class-action lawsuit filed in Fort Lauderdale federal court on May 8, Cynthia Kissner, of Broward County, and Leonard Werner, of Miami-Dade, say they have had to pay for cheese they don't want on their Quarter Pounder sandwiches.

The suit asks for at least $5 million.

It comes down to this: On the menu, a hamburger at Micky D's is cheaper than a cheeseburger.

According to the lawsuit, filed by Andrew Lavin of the Miami-based Lavin Law Group, McDonald's used to sell four items in the Quarter Pounder family, with and without cheese, with prices adjusted accordingly — about .30 to .90 cents more for cheese than without.

This practice continued for years, the suit says, but now McDonald's, "at some point," ceased "separately displaying these products for purchase on menus, and currently lists the availability of Quarter Pounder with Cheese and Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese."

As a result, the suit claims, "customers have been forced, and continue to be overcharged for these products, by being forced to pay for two slices of cheese, which they do not want, order, or receive, to be able to purchase their desired product."

Having to pay for cheese they do not receive because they asked that it be held off of the burgers, well, they are not "lovin' it," to borrow from McDonald's current slogan.

Lavin told the Miami Herald that customers who use McDonald's mobile app to order, and those like Kissner and Werner who opt to place their orders at the restaurant, face two different scenarios.

"First of all, within the past couple months McDonald's has updated its mobile app and if you want you can, in fact, purchase a Quarter Pounder using the mobile app," Lavin said. "So McDonald's is offering two specific products: one is a Quarter Pounder and one is a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. But if you go into the restaurant that option is not available to you."

According to Lavin's suit, Kissner and Werner "have suffered injury as a result of their purchases because they were overcharged, and were required to pay for cheese, which is not a component of either a Quarter Pounder or a Double Quarter Pounder, that they did not want and did not receive."

The suit does not say that restaurant chains charge more or less money when you "have it your way," such as asking for an extra squirt of "special sauce" on a McDonald's Big Mac.

For instance, buy a turkey sub at Subway and you pay the same whether you ask for it fully loaded or just plain meat and bread.

McDonalds receipts.jpg
Two McDonald's receipts from restaurants in Pembroke Pines and Cooper City from plaintiff Cynthia Kissner were included in a lawsuit filed by Kissner and another South Florida customer who claim they have to pay the price of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese when they only want a Quarter Pounder sans cheese. United States District Court/Southern District of Florida

Nevertheless, the suit claims "McDonald's is being unjustly enriched by these practices because it receives payment for cheese it does not deliver to its customers."

For the record, McDonald's lists the following ingredients on its Quarter Pounder with Cheese: a quarter-pound beef patty, sesame seed bun, pasteurized process American cheese, ketchup, pickle slices and onions. Prices are about $4.19 for the single and $6.19 for the double.

The lawsuit cites trademarks of the ingredient components of McDonald's signature sandwiches, like the Big Mac — we all remember the commercial jingle that sang, "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun." The suit claims "the price of a Big Mac includes a charge for the cheese that is included as a component of the product."

While that may be so, there was never a price break if you asked the counter person to alter the jingle and leave off one of the Big Mac's components.

Lavin explains that the Big Mac was trademarked as containing all of those ingredients.

"If someone wants a Big Mac and if they want any component withheld they are not entitled to a credit against the purchase price," he said.

But for the Quarter Pounder, "a product that was sold for years and trademarked as a Quarter Pounder and is affirmed by a separate product 'with cheese,' is an acknowledgment that something is added to the base product," Lavin said. "Which is why they should not have to be compelled to pay for cheese when they don't want it, especially when they do offer it in other means."

McDonald's hasn't responded to the suit and has 21 days to do so.

"If and when this is certified as a class action then notice will be given to everyone who qualifies as a class member," Lavin said.

If this process is triggered through a certification after McDonald's responds to the suit, people would be able to submit paperwork to the courts to notify of their interest in participating in a class action suit, said Lavin.

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