For $2 million, Colgate-Palmolive reached a deal in a false advertising suit challenging claims for the company’s Softsoap Antibacterial liquid hand soap.
Multiple putative class actions, combined into a multidistrict litigation in New Hampshire federal court, charged that the company overstated the powers of the soap’s active ingredient triclosan with statements that the product was “clinically proven to eliminate 99% of germs your family encounters,” “offers antibacterial protection,” “kills 99% of common germs,” and “America’s most trusted hand soap.”
Colgate denied the allegations, but after almost four years of litigation—and the court having rejected two motions to dismiss—the parties reached a deal.
In a joint memorandum in support of a motion for certification of a settlement class and preliminary approval, the parties told the court that the deal is “fair, adequate, and reasonable.”
The settlement class consists of all persons who purchased Softsoap Antibacterial in the United States dating back to January 1, 1992. In exchange for a release of all claims, the class members will receive injunctive relief and Colgate will provide $2 million to satisfy the notice and administrative costs, the incentive awards to the named plaintiffs, and attorneys’ fees and costs. If any money remains, it will be paid to the Children’s Health Fund.
With respect to the injunctive relief, the defendant will not make the statement “Goodbye Germs – Hello World” on labeling or marketing materials and will refrain from making a “99%” efficacy claim without an accompanying disclosure that “generally describes the testing methods.”
In addition, although Colgate has no present intention to reintroduce triclosan as an ingredient in the soap, it promised to use triclosan only “in a manner consistent with final [Food and Drug Administration] regulations” if the company changes its mind in the future.
The terms and requirements will expire five years after the effective date of the settlement or upon any changes to an applicable statute, regulation, or other law that Colgate believes would require label changes for compliance.
To read the joint memorandum in support of preliminary approval in In re: Colgate-Palmolive Softsoap Antibacterial Hand Soap Marketing and Sales Practices, click here.
Why it matters: Although all class members will not receive individual payouts from Colgate, the parties informed the court that the injunctive relief would provide a beneficial result. And after almost four years of litigation, Colgate was likely relieved by agreeing only to label changes and a modest payment of $2 million.