Dollar General’s marketing of its store-brand motor oil has a resident of Chicago's far western suburbs targeting the discount retailer with a class action complaint worth at least $5 million, alleging the oil is, at best, of little use and, at worst, can actually damage the engines of most cars in which it is poured.
In a federal complaint filed in Chicago Feb. 12, Gerardo Solis, of Elgin, has accused Dollar General of violating the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act by marketing its DG-labeled motor oils “that are obsolete and potentially harmful to its customers’ automobiles by using deceptive and misleading tactics.” The chain has positioned the DG oil adjacent to more expensive standard and premium brands and fails “to adequately warn its customers that its DG motor oil is unsuitable for use by the vast majority, if any, of its customers,” the complaint said.
Solis said he shopped at Dollar General’s Streamwood store on Feb. 6, purchasing each of the three kinds of DG motor oil — SAE 10W-30, 10W-40 and SAE 30. All three products, he indicated, carry the same or similar Society of Automotive Engineers terminology as the competing products, such as PEAK, Pennzoil, Castrol “and other legitimate motor oils that are suitable for modern-day automobiles.” Each DG oil label says the product “lubricates and protects your engine.”
However, there is small print on the back label of DG oils. On the 10W-30 and 10W-40, it said they are “not suitable for use in most gasoline powered automotive engines built after 1988.” The DG SAE 30 is, per its label “not suitable for use in most gasoline powered automotive engines built after 1930” and its “use in modern engines may cause unsatisfactory performance or equipment harm.”
Although the labels for these products also contain language saying they are recommended for “older” car and truck engines, Solis argued “few, if any, Dollar General customers drive vehicles for which these products are safe, and the use of the term ‘older’ is a relative term that does not inform a reasonable consumer that these motor oils are not safe for cars manufactured within the past 27 years, or in the case of Dollar General’s SAE 30, the past 85 years.”
The way the oils are positioned on Dollar General shelves, the complaint contended, the only difference most consumers would notice is the price. The product, Solis states, “has no business being sold, except that Dollar General is successfully deceiving a sufficient number of customers to make this fraudulent practice worthwhile.”
Under the complaint, the class would include anyone who purchased any of the three DG oils since Feb. 15, 2013. In addition to class certification and a jury trial, the complaint has requested full restitution, asked the court to force Dollar General to accurately label the quality of motor oil it sells, and asked for an award of compensatory and punitive damages, as well as legal fees and interest.
Dollar General’s corporate headquarters are in Goodlettsville, Tenn. The DG brand of products includes automotive, hardware, health and office supply lines.
Solis is represented in the action by attorneys Jason H. Rubens and Toby P. Mulholland, of the firm of Rubens and Kress, of Chicago, as local counsel; and by lead counsel Kenneth B. McClain, Steven E. Crick, Kevin D. Stanley and Colin W. McClain, of Humphrey Farrington & McClain, of Independence, Mo.