Seeking to represent nationwide or statewide classes of those who purchased Neutrogena sunscreen products, a California resident has alleged in federal court that the company misleads consumers by labeling its products with sun protection factor (SPF) numbers exceeding 50 and deceptively markets them as “sunblock,” “ultra sweatproof” and “waterproof” products. Franco v. Neutrogena Corp., No. 12CV1991 MMA MDD (U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. Cal., filed August 10, 2012). According to the complaint, while consumers have come to associate higher SPF numbers with greater sun protection, the Food and Drug Administration has found that products with SPF values greater than 50 “do not provide any increase in clinical benefit over SPF 50 sunscreen products.” The complaint thus contends that Neutrogena’s SPF 55, 70, 85, 100, and 110 representations are false, misleading and reasonably likely to deceive the public.
The plaintiff also alleges that the use of terms such as “sunblock,” “sweatproof” and “waterproof,” coupled with inflated SPF values, “lull consumers into a false sense of security that they need not reapply the Products except ‘after swimming, excessive perspiration [or] towel drying’” as directed by the manufacturer. The plaintiff contends, “Scientific studies establish that sunscreen products are not ‘waterproof,’ are not ‘sweatproof,’ do not ‘block’ all UV radiation and must be reapplied every 2 hours to maintain their effectiveness even absent exposure to water or sweat.” Claiming that the plaintiff and putative class members have not received the benefit of their bargain, the plaintiff alleges violations of California’s Business & Professions Code and Consumers Legal Remedies Act, as well as breach of express warranty. She seeks injunctive relief, restitution and disgorgement, a corrective advertising campaign, attorney’s fees, and costs.