McDonald's Sued Over Happy Meal Toys

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You've been served
A Sacramento mother yesterday filed a class-action suit against McDonald's in San Francisco Superior Court, claiming the fast-food chain engages "in the unfair, unlawful, deceptive and fraudulent practice of promoting and advertising McDonald's Happy Meal products to very young California children, using the inducement of various toys."

Should vast quantities of fellow Californians join this suit, it will forever alter the McDonald's catchphrase "billions and billions served."

Monet Parham claims that "children eight years old and younger do not have the cognitive skills and the developmental maturity to understand the persuasive intent of marketing and advertising." Therefore, "McDonald's advertising featuring toys to bait children violates California law because it is inherently deceptive and unfair."

Parham, who is represented by lawyers for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, further notes that Federal law recognizes that "advertising that is not understood to be advertising is misleading to consumers." Since children "do not understand advertising," then any marketing to youngsters is thus suspect. "McDonald's is engaged in a highly sophisticated scheme to use the bait of toys to exploit children's developmental immaturity and subvert parental authority."

Her case comes one month after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance requiring McDonald's and other restaurants meet strict nutritional guidelines if they wish to include a toy in a meal.

Happy Meal toys, the suit continues, "interfere with and undermine parental control over the health and welfare of their children. This action seeks to stop one of the most powerful, unfair, and deceptive practices -- tempting kids with toys to get them to nag their parents to buy Happy Meals, thereby restoring an environment in which children and their parents can make dietary choices free from unfair and deceptive child-targeted marketing."

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F*ck you, clown
As advertising to children is "inherently deceptive," the Center for Science in the Public Interest claims the fast-food giant is violating state consumer laws.

Meanwhile, Maya, the plaintiff's six-year-old daughter, constantly clamors to be taken to McDonald's "for the toys."

Maya, "and other members of the Children Class," the lawsuit claims, do "not understand that McDonald's marketing efforts are intended to make her want to eat Happy Meals. Maya interprets this as good advice for proper eating."

Maya, incidentally, has successfully wheedled the plaintiff into buying her Happy Meals to obtain the following toys: I-Carly lip gloss and note pad; Barbie lip gloss and small comb; Shrek movie character figures; Strawberry Shortcake mini-dolls with paper and mini-stamps; and an American Idol toy. As a result, Maya's health has been harmed "without her knowledge or comprehension ... Given the choice, Maya wants to eat Happy Meals instead of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains because McDonald's has convinced her that she needs to get the toy."

By advertising to children -- who then spread the news of Happy Meal toys to other children, "McDonalds has unfairly interfered with Parham's relationship with Maya." Arguments over Happy Meals have caused "needless and unwarranted dissension in their parent-child relationship."

McDonald's is charged with two counts of engaging in deceptive marketing and business practices; and two counts of engaging in unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

It remains to be seen whether the city of San Francisco -- and, now Monet Parham -- will prove stiffer competition to McDonald's than Burger King ever was.

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