This past week, several consumer actions made headlines:

Claims Against Advertisers for the Misuse of “Natural” Gain Traction

Claims that Nature’s Bounty’s “natural” menopause remedy is ineffective and contains synthetic ingredients and lead survived a motion to dismiss and may proceed as a class action, according to a judge in the Eastern District of New York. The named plaintiff accuses Nature’s Bounty of advertising its black cohosh menopause remedy as “natural” and “nonsynthetic”; she also alleges that the effectiveness of the remedy is not supported by scientific evidence. A key issue before the court was whether a reasonable consumer would assume that the product – labeled as “natural” with a disclaimer that it contains “other ingredients” – contained only natural ingredients. The court found that a reasonable consumer would make this assumption and allowed the plaintiff’s advertising claims to proceed on that basis.

In a separate action filed in federal court in California, claims that Kraft Foods Group Inc. falsely advertised colored cheddar cheese as “natural” were also allowed to proceed. In this case, the key issue was whether a reasonable consumer would interpret the phrase “natural cheese” to mean without artificial color. The plaintiffs offered consumer reports indicating that 66 percent of consumers understand “natural” to mean the product does not contain artificial colors. Plaintiffs also offered a longstanding FDA policy that “natural” means no artificial ingredients – including artificial colorants.

Ford Faces Class Action Lawsuits for Defective Touchscreen

Ford Motor Co. will face claims by nine different classes alleging the company sold faulty, non-functioning MyFord touchscreen systems in its 2010 vehicles. The classes, which are divided by state, allege that Ford misrepresented the abilities of the touchscreen system, which were defective, and then attempted to conceal the system’s defects. Ford marketed MyFord, which cost about $1,000 at the time, as having the ability to operate audio, navigation, phone, climate and smartphone music systems, but the system was technically deficient. Although the judge allowed the class actions to proceed in certain states, he did not certify the class in several states where the states’ laws and policies would not allow adjudicating claims as a class.