ATLANTA (AP) – The Coca-Cola Co. said Thursday its Argentinian subsidiary has filed a criminal complaint against executives of a unit of French food and drink maker Danone and public relations firm Euro RSCG, accusing them of orchestrating a smear campaign against Coke’s Dasani water brand.
Atlanta-based Coca-Cola said in a statement that the complaint was filed in Argentina against two executives at Aguas Danone de Argentina and an executive at Euro RSCG Buenos Aires under the country’s Unfair Trade Practices statute. Euro RSCG is based in New York.
Coca-Cola alleges the executives were behind a widely circulated two-year Internet campaign that made false statements against Dasani.
The campaign, Coca-Cola said, called into question the quality of Dansani, misleading consumers and hurting the reputation and sales of Desani and parent Coca-Cola in Argentina and other Latin American countries.
Coke is seeking damages of up to $10,000, spokesman Dana Bolden said.
Dasani was launched in Argentina in October 2005, and then released in other countries in Latin America.
Immediately following the launch, Coca-Cola said, the brand was maligned as ‘bottled tap water’ and ‘cancer water’ on the Internet.
The campaign extended beyond Argentina to Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and a number of other Latin American markets, Coca-Cola said. Major customers in Argentina have refused to sell Dasani because of the rumors, Coca-Cola said.
Coca-Cola said it will consider whether other executives at Aguas Danone de Argentina, Euro RSCG Buenos Aires or other agencies should be included in the complaint.
Messages left Thursday with a spokeswoman at Euro RSCG and with Group Danone SA’s public relations staff in France seeking comment were not immediately returned.
Coca-Cola says Dasani is water ‘from a municipal source’ that is ‘subjected to multi-barrier filtration,’ purified and enhanced with minerals. The company said the water is from local sources in different countries.
Outside Coke’s annual meeting in 2006, activists were offering a tapwater challenge to passers-by to try to demonstrate that Dasani tastes no better than municipal tap water but is much more expensive.
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