A false advertising suit was filed against Merck & Co., the makers of Coppertone sunscreen, alleging the products deceptively promised “full defense” against the sun.
Three plaintiffs argued in their New Jersey federal complaint that Coppertone’s sunscreen products fail to protect against the cancer causing longer rays of ultraviolet-A radiation despite its “full defense” claim. Calling the products “sunblock” and claiming they were waterproof, sweatproof, and would provide all-day protection was also misleading because the protection diminished over time and after exposure to water and sweat, the plaintiffs alleged.
According to the complaint, “[T]he level or degree of UVA protection, to the extent provided, was significantly less than the level of protection provided against the burning effect of UVB rays and [no] protection was being provided against the longer UVA rays. . . . [T]hese products did not block all or anywhere close to all of the sun’s harmful rays.”
All three plaintiffs relied upon the sunscreen’s labeling and advertising, they alleged, seeking trebled damages, restitution, and injunctive relief from Merck, which they said reaped “enormous profits” from Coppertone products.
To read the complaint in Brody v. Merck & Co., click here.
Why it matters: Sunscreen labeling has been a “hot” topic lately. Last summer the Food and Drug Administration announced major changes in the labeling and marketing requirements of over-the-counter sunscreen products, the first new rules in 30 years. The changes addressed claims like “broad spectrum,” “waterproof,” “sweatproof,” and “sunblock.” The new rules were set to take effect earlier this year, but the FDA pushed implementation an additional six months to give manufacturers more time to come into compliance. While the rules have yet to take effect, the plaintiffs referenced them in their complaint as support for their argument that Merck knew or should have known its labeling and advertising of “sunblock,” “sweatproof,” and “waterproof” sunscreen was deceptive.