Geske v. PNY Techs., Inc., Case No. 19-cv-05170

Decision Date30 November 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 19-cv-05170
Citation503 F.Supp.3d 687
Parties Cassandra GESKE, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff, v. PNY TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

William Scott Terrell, III, Pro Hac Vice, D. Gregory Blankinship, Pro Hac Vice, Finkelstein, Blankinship, Frei-Pearson & Garber, LLP, White Plains, NY, Brenton Jeremy Goodman, Pro Hac Vice, Matthew D. Schultz, Pro Hac Vice, Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A., Pensacola, FL, William F. Cash, III, Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A., Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff.

Ronald Y. Rothstein, Amelia Rose Garza-mattia, Sean H. Suber, Winston & Strawn LLP, Chicago, IL, for Defendant.


Steven C. Seeger, United States District Judge This case involves a weak power bank. Plaintiff Cassandra Geske bought a portable power bank at the grocery store so that she could charge her electronic devices on the go. She purchased a PowerPack 5200, manufactured by Defendant PNY Technologies. The packaging prominently declared that it offered "5200 mAh" of available power for "3x CHARGES*." She thought that the power bank would deliver "5200 mAh" of power to her cell phone.

But the power bank was not as powerful as she had expected. She had to recharge the power bank more often than she thought. She later discovered that the power bank was never capable of delivering 5200 mAh of power at all. The power bank itself consumes a significant portion of the power. So PNY charges too much for a product that charges too little.

Geske sued PNY on behalf of herself and a putative class of purchasers of PNY power banks. She claims that PNY misrepresented the power of its products. She alleges an economic injury measured by the difference in value between the product as promised and the product as delivered. She seeks an injunction, too, even though there is no reason to believe that she is going to buy another weak power bank.

PNY moved to dismiss for lack of standing, and for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. For the reasons explained below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.


At the motion to dismiss stage, the Court must accept as true the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint. See Lett v. City of Chicago , 946 F.3d 398, 399 (7th Cir. 2020). The Court "offer[s] no opinion on the ultimate merits because further development of the record may cast the facts in a light different from the complaint." Savory v. Cannon , 947 F.3d 409, 412 (7th Cir. 2020).

Portable electronic devices, especially cell phones, are omnipresent in modern American life. See Am. Cplt., at ¶ 1 (Dckt. No. 39); see also Carpenter v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S. Ct. 2206, 2211, 201 L.Ed.2d 507 (2018) (stating that in 2018 there were 396 million cellphone service accounts in a country of 326 million people). As any user is all too aware, electronic devices need power to function. See Am. Cplt., at ¶ 2. To help consumers charge their devices on the go, technology companies created portable chargers, otherwise known as power banks. Id. at ¶¶ 3–4.

A power bank is made up of an internal battery cell and a circuit board. Id. at ¶ 34. The circuit board converts the battery's power into voltage, and then transfers that power to a connected electronic device. Id. at ¶¶ 34–35. So energy flows from the power bank to the device, giving it a charge (and giving the user a boost).

But it takes power to send power. The power bank must use some of the power to convert and distribute power from the internal battery to the connected device. Id. at ¶ 36. This process can use as much as 30 to 40 percent of the battery power of the power bank. Id.

A power bank's capacity to charge another device is measured in milliampere-hours ("mAh"). Id. at ¶ 5. The unit of measurement is an ampere-hour, meaning a current of one ampere flowing for one hour. So, as the name ("milli") suggests, an mAh is one thousandth of an ampere-hour.

A higher number means more power. A higher mAh means that the power bank can provide more energy. Id. And more power means that the power bank has a greater ability to charge electronic devices. Id.

The amount of power that a power bank can provide is important to consumers. In fact, the amount of power is "the material factor in making a purchasing decision, because the function of the power bank is to provide power, and more is better." Id. at ¶ 70 (emphasis in original); id. at ¶ 6 ("The main point of buying a power bank is to have the ability to get more power."). Consumers buy power banks for power, not looks. Id. at ¶ 6. They prefer power banks with higher mAh, and pay more for them. Id. at ¶ 7. More power is more valuable. The higher the power, the higher the price.

Defendant PNY Technologies, Inc. ("PNY") is a global technology company and a major manufacturer of power banks. Id. at ¶¶ 3, 8, 21–22. The company makes power banks with a range of mAh, from 1500 mAh up to 10400 mAh. Id. at ¶¶ 9, 23. PNY informs consumers about the amount of mAh offered by a power bank through the name of the product and the label on the packaging. Id. at ¶¶ 24, 30–31; see generally Pictures (Dckt. No. 43-2, at 2–4 of 10) (showing the packaging).

In 2018, Plaintiff Cassandra Geske purchased a PNY power bank, the PowerPack 5200. See Am. Cplt., at ¶¶ 13, 45 (Dckt. No. 39). She allegedly read and relied on the representation that the PowerPack 5200 could actually deliver 5200 mAh to her devices. Id. at ¶¶ 13, 45. In her view, the product's very name – PowerPack 5200 – said it all. Id. at ¶ 24.

A picture of the packaging for the PowerPack 5200 appears in the amended complaint. Id. at ¶ 30. The top of the packaging included the following name and description: "PNY 5200 mAh POWERPACK," with "3x CHARGES*" appearing right below. Id. at ¶ 30; see also id. at ¶ 46 ("On PNY's package, PNY said that the PowerPack 5200 had ‘5200 mAh.’ "). The bottom of the power bank repeated that figure: "Capacity: 5200mAh." Id. at ¶ 32.1

Geske paid $12.99 for the power bank. Id. at ¶ 47. But at some point, she began to feel that she didn't get what she paid for. She had to recharge the power bank more often than she expected. Id. at ¶ 48.

But Geske didn't return the device to the store. Instead, she hired a laboratory to figure out if her $12.99 power bank underperformed. Id. at ¶ 40.

The lab ran tests on two PNY PowerPack 5200s (although not the actual power bank that she had purchased) and two PNY PowerPack 1800s. Id. at ¶¶ 40–41. The lab measured the amount of mAh delivered by the power packs. Id. And sure enough, the two PowerPack 5200s delivered 3399 and 3522 mAh, respectively, about a third less than 5200 mAh. Id. at ¶ 43. The two PowerPack 1800s underperformed, too. They delivered about 1005 and 1041 mAh, respectively, about 45 percent less than 1800 mAh. Id.

Geske ultimately sued PNY on behalf of herself and a putative class of buyers of PNY power banks in Illinois and other states. See Cplt. (Dckt. No. 1). She later filed an amended complaint that advanced claims on behalf of herself and buyers in Illinois and 20 other states (plus the District of Columbia). See Am. Cplt. (Dckt. No. 39)

Geske believes that her PowerPack 5200 did not pack enough punch. It did not provide as much juice as advertised. And she alleges that her problems weren't an isolated occurrence. Her power bank wasn't a lemon. Instead, she believes that all power banks sold and marketed by PNY suffer from a similar deficiency. Specifically, she claims that all PNY power banks deliver a "substantially lower" amount of mAh than PNY represents. Id. at ¶ 25.

The amended complaint includes three counts. Count I alleges a violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and comparable statutes in other states. Count II alleges breach of warranty, and Count III alleges unjust enrichment.

In Geske's view, PNY is not delivering what consumers expect. Consumers expect that the mAh on the packaging refers to the amount that their electronic devices will receive , not the amount of power that a power bank has before consuming some of the power itself. Id. at ¶ 38. That is, buyers read the label and expect the product to deliver the listed mAh. Id. ; see also id. at ¶ 5 ("[A] label that represents that a power bank has a certain mAh conveys to reasonable consumers that the power bank is capable of delivering that amount of mAh.").

In reality, the power banks aren't as powerful as consumers expect. PNY's labels are misleading – they refer to the mAh capacity of the internal battery, not the amount of mAh that the power banks actually deliver. Id. at ¶ 36. Unwitting consumers have no idea that the power banks are consuming a big percentage of their own power. Id. at ¶ 37.

According to the complaint, the overstatement is no accident. PNY intentionally overstates the amount of power that its power banks actually provide. Id. at ¶¶ 12, 32–33, 36, 39. The company "intentionally deceives consumers by misrepresenting the amount of power its Products can transfer" to electronic devices. Id. at ¶ 11.

PNY misrepresents the amount of power because the company knows that consumers pay more for more power. Id. at ¶¶ 7–8, 26. PNY "exploits consumers’ preferences for power banks with higher mAh." Id. at ¶ 11. "By deceiving consumers about the Products’ mAh, PNY is able to sell more of, and charge more for, the Products than it could if they were labeled accurately." Id. at ¶ 26.

Geske alleges that she suffered an economic injury. That is, she paid a premium based on her belief that the 5200 mAh PowerPack would actually deliver 5200 mAh. Id. at ¶ 13. She suffered an injury based on the difference in value between the product as advertised and the product as delivered. Id. at ¶ 27. "Consumers are willing to pay more for the Products based on their belief that they are capable of delivering the...

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