A pair of class action suits allege that Procter & Gamble and Unilever sold deodorant products in oversized packaging that deceived customers into believing they were getting more than what they actually paid for.

The identical complaints, filed in New York federal court by different plaintiffs represented by the same law firm, target Unilever’s Degree and Axe products and P&G’s Old Spice and Gillette lines.

Accordingly to the complaints, each of the deodorant sticks has nonfunctional slack fill in violation of New York’s consumer protection laws and the federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act and accompanying regulations.

For example, the elliptically shaped containers for the 2.7-ounce Degree products are approximately 5 ¾ inches long and 2 ½ inches wide. But the actual stick inside the container is only three inches tall – leaving more than two inches of space in the container, or roughly 48 percent slack fill.

“Plaintiffs were (and a consumer would reasonably be) misled about the volume of the product contained within the container in comparison to the size of the products’ packaging,” the plaintiffs alleged. “Plaintiffs paid the full price of the products and only received 52 percent of what defendant represented they would be getting due to the 48 percent nonfunctional slack fill in the 2.7-ounce products.”

The propel/repel mechanism in the containers that pushes the deodorant stick up does not require that much space to function, the complaints added, and the products themselves are “uniquely deceptive” because consumers never actually see the amount of deodorant product they are using until it is used up.

Seeking to certify a nationwide class of consumers, the complaints request compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and an order requiring the defendants to repackage the products without nonfunctional slack fill.

To read the complaint in Bimont v. Unilever, click here.

To read the complaint in Tjokronolo v. The Procter & Gamble Co., click here.

Why it matters: Slack fill requirements for product packaging have been an issue in California, where suits have been filed against companies ranging from ConAgra Foods’ Slim Jims to Harry & David’s to Fleming Pharmaceuticals’ nasal spray. Companies should review applicable state or federal slack fill requirements to avoid liability.