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Might this Lawsuit Towards Dunkin’ Lastly Finish Vegan Milk Surcharges? Specialists Weigh In 

Ought to shoppers should pay further for vegan milk? A category motion lawsuit filed towards Dunkin’ Donuts LLC alleges that these surcharges are literally unlawful. 

Filed within the Northern District of California, the lawsuit, representing 10 plaintiffs with lactose intolerance and milk allergic reactions, challenges Dunkin’s extra prices for non-dairy milk choices similar to soy, oat, coconut, or almond milk. 

Within the lawsuit, plaintiffs allege that these surcharges, various from 50¢ to $2.15 relying on the product and site, violate the People with Disabilities Act and different state-level anti-discrimination legal guidelines, setting the stage for a doubtlessly industry-altering authorized precedent.


In line with the lawsuit, these surcharges for plant-based milk can symbolize a considerable portion of the typical $3.25 drink worth at Dunkin’. The criticism highlights a stark distinction in Dunkin’s therapy of dairy and non-dairy choices, because the chain freely substitutes complete milk or fat-free skim milk for the usual 2-percent milk in its drinks at no extra price.

The core allegation is that Dunkin’ discriminates towards people with lactose intolerance and milk allergic reactions, each of that are acknowledged disabilities, whereas concurrently benefiting financially from these surcharges. 

The lawsuit claims that Dunkin’ has amassed greater than $250 million via what it deems discriminatory and illegal surcharges.

Is it authorized to cost further for vegan milk?

Present estimates present that lactose intolerance impacts between 30 million and 50 million People, with some type of lactose intolerance affecting as many as 48 % of the American inhabitants.

The plaintiffs contend that on account of their lactose intolerance, they’re considerably impaired in numerous main life actions and are compelled to go for non-dairy drinks to mitigate the adversarial well being results related to lactose intolerance, similar to abdomen ache and vomiting. Nonetheless, Dunkin’ has imposed a premium on these alternate options, additional exacerbating the monetary burden on these clients.

This surcharge apply has additionally come underneath scrutiny not just for its impression on shopper alternative but additionally for its broader moral implications.

“Charging further for non-dairy milk choices not solely harms shoppers who want or select to keep away from dairy for moral, medical, or dietary causes, it additionally additional entrenches and helps the established order,” Amanda Howell, Managing Legal professional on the Animal Authorized Protection Fund (ALDF), tells VegNews. 


Howell underscores the moral and environmental points linked to dairy manufacturing, advocating for enterprise practices that encourage sustainable and moral shopper selections, moderately than penalizing them. 

Is it even authorized to cost for these alternate options? Howell attracts parallels with previous circumstances the place the Division of Justice required universities to supply non-allergenic choices. The legislation across the prohibition of surcharges for People with disabilities can be well-established, she says. 

“Customers shouldn’t should pay further just because they select a substitute for cow’s milk,” Howell says. “Because the lawsuit factors out, imposing surcharges for merchandise like oat and almond milks is particularly egregious contemplating many People have well being situations that necessitate these substitutions.”


This authorized motion, Howell explains, has the potential to immediate companies to acknowledge that they might be breaching the legislation and subsequently alter the spectrum of selections out there to shoppers in eating places. Moreover, she says it might “function a catalyst for lawmakers to additional make clear that such monetary penalties shouldn’t be enforced.”

Howell believes that the authorized panorama within the meals {industry}, significantly concerning the rights of people with disabilities, remains to be evolving. 

“By charging extra for oat, soy, coconut, and different vegan milks, firms threat harming their reputations and dropping clients within the course of,” a Individuals for the Moral Therapy of Animals (PETA) spokesperson tells VegNews. 

The dairy {industry} is a big contributor to greenhouse gasses and its inhumane therapy of dairy cows are each a part of the moral drivers behind shoppers selecting plant-based milks as an alternative of dairy. 


“Individuals shouldn’t be punished for prioritizing animal welfare, the surroundings, and their very own well being, and the extra persons are inspired to pay for cow’s milk, the extra cows might be factory-farmed to supply it,” the spokesperson says.

Vegan milk upcharge at Starbucks

PETA additionally helps the ADA-based declare within the Dunkin’ lawsuit, noting the disproportionate impression of lactose intolerance on non-white shoppers. 

“No matter what the courts could resolve, charging further for vegan milks incentivizes clients to go for dairy and penalizes those that select dairy-free milk—together with the roughly 80 % of Black and Indigenous People and greater than 90 % of Asian People who’re lactose illiberal,” the spokesperson says. 

The case provides to the continued discourse and public stress on different firms, most visibly Starbucks, which has confronted comparable criticism for its vegan milk surcharge. 


For a number of years, PETA and superstar supporters similar to James Cromwell, Alicia Silverstone, and Paul McCartney have all argued that Starbucks should drop its vegan milk surcharges for quite a lot of causes, together with that the apply is discriminatory towards sure clients.

In the UK, Starbucks did drop its vegan milk surcharges in 2022, a transfer that got here after a 2021 marketing campaign dropped at gentle the discriminatory nature of forcing shoppers who don’t tolerate dairy milk to pay further for plant-based alternate options. 

The potential success of the plaintiffs within the Dunkin’ lawsuit might ship a robust message to firms similar to Starbucks, which continues to cost further for vegan milk substitutions int he US—the place it operates greater than 16,000 areas, the vast majority of its shops. 

“Upcharging for vegan merchandise is unreasonable and unfair and contributes to cruelty, environmental degradation, and ailing well being,” the spokesperson says. “Dairy-free choices have to be inexpensive and accessible for everybody.” 

This sentiment is shared by Howell, who sees the lawsuit as an important step in direction of guaranteeing that moral and sustainable selections are financially accessible to all shoppers. 

“This lawsuit might assist companies understand they’re in violation of the legislation and alter the panorama of shopper choices at eating places,” Howell says. “It may additionally act as a catalyst for legislators to make even clearer that a majority of these monetary penalties can’t be imposed.”

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