retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Bloomberg reports that a federal judge has ruled that "websites critical of a settlement that Visa Inc. (V) and MasterCard Inc. (MA) reached with retailers over so-called swipe fees are misleading and must be corrected ... Sites at issue include and home sites for the trade groups National Community Pharmacists Association, National Grocers Association and the National Association of Convenience Stores, among others, according to court filings submitted by the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

"The sites provide one-sided information encouraging retailers to object and opt out and don’t fully explain consequences of those actions, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said. While opting out allows merchants to pursue their own lawsuits against the credit card firms, it deprives them of the ability to receive payments for damages under the settlement, the lawyers said."

Lyle Beckwith, government relations representative for the National Association of Convenience Stores, said the ruling was "not a big deal," adding: "“This is just unbelievable nit-picking. We are standing between attorneys and their $700 million payday and they don’t like it.”

Bloomberg reports that Starbucks will lower prices by 10-13 percent on its Starbucks and Seattle's Best brand packaged coffees sold in US supermarkets and retail stores.

"This will allow us to both enhance the value that we’re providing our existing packaged coffee customers, and hopefully increase the frequency which they purchase Starbucks and Seattle’s Best coffee, as well as attract new customers,” says spokesman Jim Olson.

• The Los Angeles Times reports that California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment "has added the controversial plastics-softening chemical, bisphenol A, to its official list of chemicals known to cause birth defects ... The listing, authorized under a 1986 law, Proposition 65, requires that manufacturers of goods containing BPA, such as water bottles, provide warnings or reformulate their products ... BPA has been connected with birth defects, altered brain development, behavioral changes, cancer and cardiovascular disease."

The American Chemistry Council criticized the decision, saying that it undercuts and undermines the traditional scientific review process.

• The Wall Street Journal reports that the US dairy industry is petitioning the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), asking that it be allowed not to identify reduced calorie chocolate milk as being such, but rather just note the inclusion of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame in the ingredient list. The reason? Phrases such as "low calorie" or "low sugar" are seen as a turn-off by kids, who are the primary consumers of these products.

The dairy industry is trying to reverse a decades-long decline in milk consumption, but opponents say that it is important to prominently note the inclusion of artificial sweeteners in milk products.

The Los Angeles Times reports that New York State Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Oing has ruled that JC Penney can sell products designed by Martha Stewart Omnimedia, as long as they are unbranded.

The judge "dismissed Macy’s claim of unfair competition against J.C. Penney," which came as part of as court battle in which Macy's has accused JCP of contract infringement.

Macy's said that it was disappointed in the ruling, but plans to persist with its broader suit. Analysts say that the ruling may push the two companies to reach a negotiated settlement rather than leave the decision to the courts.
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