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Amalie Arena's namesake, Amalie Oil Co., faces false advertising lawsuit

Two Florida residents allege that Amalie Oil Co.?s motor oil line XCEL Premium is falsely advertised as safe for cars. Pictured is the oil in question from the lawsuit filed in late 2018. [Filed in Miami-Dade County circuit court, 2018]
Published May 16

The namesake of the Tampa Bay Lightning's Amalie Arena is in the midst of a lawsuit over claims that it knowingly sells faulty automotive oil. Two Florida residents allege that Amalie Oil Co.'s motor oil line XCEL Premium is falsely advertised as safe for cars.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed in a Miami court in December, the oil is advertised as "premium" motor oil that "protects like no other." It is sold throughout Florida at Sunoco, Marathon and Sam's Club, and is often one of the cheapest options available.

What isn't immediately apparent, however, is a warning in small print on the back saying the oil is not suitable for "most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1930."

"Use in modern engines may cause unsatisfactory engine performance or equipment harm," the bottle says.

That's because modern vehicles require additives to help protect the engine and allow it to perform as it should, according to the lawsuit. The product's own labeling says it lacks additives.

"Reasonable Florida consumers, including plaintiffs, do not read this fine print," the lawsuit said. "Even if they did, it is ambiguous."

The fine print, the lawsuit alleges, contradicts other signals to the consumer that the oil is safe for their cars. Advertising it as a "premium" motor oil, for example, suggests a superior quality, while the checkered racing flag potentially indicates it works for high-performance cars.

Contacted through its lawyer, Amalie said it "disputes the plaintiffs allegations in the case and intends to vigorously defend itself in the litigation."

The American Petroleum Institute, an independent motor oil rating organization, put an advisory on the product in a review of Amalie's XCEL line because of the bottle's labeling. Amalie's warning about not being suitable for most modern vehicles contradicts another part of its label indicating it is a "quality blended lubricant" that "provides excellent and durable lubrication for automobile and truck engines."

In a blog post from October 2018, the institute said it contacted the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services "several times" in 2015 about the issue.

Amalie's executives, the lawsuit alleges, are aware of the product's deficiency. The lawsuit cites a 2003 article by industry publication Lube Report, which quotes an Amalie executive saying the company would "rather not sell" the type of oil XCEL is.

"There's no question that it's not good for today's engines," Dennis Madden, senior vice president of global sales and marketing, said. "I tell people, 'It's not going to give your car a heart attack. It's more like cancer.' But a lot of people are only concerned with price and they'll buy that stuff because it's 30 cents cheaper."

Because other companies continued to sell similar products at the time, he said, "we feel like we have to compete."

The men bringing the lawsuit, Brandon Opalka of Broward County and Ryan O'Connor of Seminole County, are seeking damages and class action status.

Contact Malena Carollo at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.

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