TRUE OR FALSE. Has the American chain Starbucks really opened a café in Algeria?

Even if the coffee shop opened in Oran looks in every way like a real Starbucks, it is indeed a counterfeit.

“Finally Starbucks in Oran!” enthuses an Algerian Internet user in a TikTok video that has had a million and a half views. In this sequence, the TikToker Oumnia-Online takes his approximately 48,000 subscribers for a virtual guided tour of this new establishment located in Oran (Algeria). “We went inside, it’s the real Starbucks franchise”, he says. The logo with the double-tailed mermaid, the green aprons, the customers’ first names on the drinks, everything is done to suggest that this is indeed an American brand store. “The decoration is simple, in line with international Starbucks standards”notes the videographer.

“I had a double chocolate Frapuccino, a cake, and honestly the taste is like the one you find abroad”, continues the Algerian Internet user, accustomed to culinary reviews in Oranian fast-food restaurants. “From a price point of view, it is of course expensive like all Starbucks in the world. We wish them success, insha’Allah that the chain expands to Algeria”hopes the videographer.

The American channel denies

The address is well referenced under the name “STARBUCKS ORAN” by Google Maps, in the Hai Seddikia district of Oran, a port city in northeastern Algeria. However, everything is false. Contacted by the BBC, the American multinational denied having opened a franchise in Algeria. “Starbucks has not opened an establishment in this location”confirmed the channel in response to an Internet user on the X platform (formerly Twitter). The 2022 tax report (PDF) of the company clearly mentions the existence of 35,711 branches, spread across 86 countries, including Morocco. However, the search engine on the official Starbucks website does not return any results for Algeria. The Oran boutique located on avenue Seghier Benali is therefore a counterfeit.

On X, the widely followed account Algeria Project had published a video showing the influx of customers in the new Oran coffee shop. The establishment even closed three hours before the scheduled closing time to cope with the crowds, for two days in a row. In this video, franceinfo noted a disturbing detail: the establishment displays on its facade an old logo of the brandwith the mention “1971-1987”instead of the modern logo, used since 2011. After learning of the multinational’s denial, Algeria Project apologized “for posting something about what turned out to be a fake brand“.

Selim Haffar, a young man presenting himself as the manager of the Oran establishment, claimed on Saturday September 23 on TikTok to have obtained the approval of the director of Starbucks, during a trip to the United States, in order to open a branch in Algeria. According to him, he communicated to him the recipes for Starbucks products, before agreeing that the Algerian manager would pay for the license, once the establishment brought in money. The average cost of a license to open a franchise is $315,000 (around 295,000 euros), according to Yahoo Finance. Contacted by franceinfo, Selim Haffar did not wish to provide further details: I was advised not to answer any questions. I therefore prefer to avoid any interviews for the moment, for fear of legal action.”

Towards prosecution for counterfeiting?

What is the risk of the Algerian brand, which has usurped the Starbucks brand? She could “pay a lot of damages” to the largest coffee chain in the world, estimates Joséphine Weil, lawyer in intellectual property law, speaking to franceinfo. The Oran coffee shop could be attacked for “brand counterfeiting, but also for other related offenses such as parasitism and unfair competition”she analyzes.

“Parasitism, because the usurper takes advantage of the economic value and notoriety of Starbucks, and unfair competition, because the consumer may think that he is going to an establishment validated by the parent company”, explains the lawyer. These offenses are present in French law as in American law. The multinational did not specify whether it intended to pursue the fake Starbucks from Oran on Algerian territory.

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