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Consumer Confidential: Ice cream lawsuit, mixed retail stats, tax-refund ID theft

June 2, 2011 | 10:24 am

Creampic Here's your that'll-be-the-day Thursday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--Ice cream eaters can sue over claims of "all natural." A federal judge has given the go-ahead for Ben & Jerry's and Breyers to be sued for using "all natural" labels on ice cream made with synthetic chemical processes. The plaintiffs in the case allege that the two ice cream makers misrepresented their ice cream containing "Dutch" chocolate as "all natural" when in fact it is processed with potassium carbonate, a man-made ingredient. The suit notes that the Center for Science in the Public Interest sent a letter to the companies identifying about 50 products, including chocolate ice cream and frozen yogurt, that it said were mislabeled. The suit, filed in federal district court in Northern California, charges the companies with fraud, false advertising and unjust enrichment.

--We're shopping, but not as much as retailers might hope, because we're also keeping an eye on pump prices. That's good news for big-box retailers that also sell gas. Costco reported a 13% rise for May at stores open more than a year. BJs Wholesale Club reported a 7.4% rise in comparable-store sales. Upscale merchants also seem to be faring better. Saks reported a 20.2% jump in same-store sales. Fellow high-end retailer Nordstrom reported a 7.4% rise. Other retailers produced less vibrant sales for the month. Target saw same-store sales rise 2.8%. And department stores turned in a disappointing showing for the most part. J.C. Penney said comparable-store sales declined 1%. Kohl's reported growth of 0.8%.

--Heads up: A growing number of taxpayers may be victims of identity theft. Unsuspecting victims are filing for their refunds and learning that the money had been paid to someone using the same name and Social Security number. A Government Accountability Office report shows there were more than 248,000 identity-theft incidents in 2010. In 2008, the number was 51,700. After learning they have been victimized, taxpayers must wait for the IRS to determine which filing was legitimate. However, once fraud is discovered, the agency marks the account and carefully screens future submissions.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: Ben & Jerry's is being sued for allegedly misleading claims. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times