ABC News' John Muller reports:
Two New Jersey men sued Subway this week, claiming the world's biggest fast-food chain has been shorting them by selling "footlong" sandwiches that measure less than 12 inches.
The suit, filed Tuesday in Superior Court in Mount Holly, N.J., might be the first legal filing aimed at the Milford, Conn.-based company since a Subway customer in Australia posted a photo of a "footlong" sub next to a ruler on the company's Facebook page to allege that the sandwich was not as long as advertised.
The photo quickly spread across the Internet and the company has since been on the receiving end of a barrage of criticism.
Stephen DeNittis, the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the New Jersey suit, said he's seeking class-action status and is also preparing to file a similar suit in Pennsylvania state court in Philadelphia.
He said he has had sandwiches from 17 shops measured, and every one came up short. The lawsuit claims it is a "deceptive practice for Subway to advertise its large sandwich as a 'footlong.'"
"When you add this up over time, that comes out to be anywhere between 45 to 60 cents a sandwich over the course of six years," DeNittis said of the alleged shortchanged subs.
Subway has 38,000 stores around the world, nearly all owned by franchisees. Its $5 "footlong" specials have been a mainstay of the company's ads for five years.
DeNittis said both plaintiffs - John Farley of Evesham, N.J., and Charles Noah Pendrack of Ocean City, N.J. - came to him after reading last week about the short sandwiches.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages and a change in Subway's practices. The company should either make sure its sandwiches measure a full foot or stop advertising them as such, according to the suit.
In response to the original photo on Facebook that unleashed the wave of complaints, Subway Australia posted a statement clarifying that "footlong" subs were just a trademark, not reality.
"'SUBWAY FOOTLONG' is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length," read a comment posted to Subway Australia's Facebook page Jan. 16.
Prior to that statement, the company had told ABCNews.com that the size discrepancy was caused by the fact that the bread was baked fresh in each of the company's 38,000 restaurants around the world.
"We are committed to providing a consistent product delivering the same amount of bread to the customer with every order," the statement read. "The length however may vary slightly when not baked to our exact specifications. We are reinforcing our policies and procedures in an effort to ensure our offerings are always consistent no matter which Subway restaurant you visit."
In response to the lawsuit, the head baker for Subway reiterated their commitment to 12 inches with each "footlong" sub.
"If proper procedures are followed, they will all measure 12 inches," Mark Christiano told ABC News.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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