According to a new class action suit filed against The Dial Corporation in New York federal court, Dial Complete soap products are no more effective than ordinary soap and water and do not kill virtually all bacteria, as the company claims.

Even the product name – Dial Complete – is false, Michael Feuer claims in his complaint against The Dial Corporation.

“Dial’s marketing and advertising campaign sends an unmistakably clear, but an unconsciously deceptive and unfair message: Dial Complete is more effective at killing germs, protecting the consumer from germs, and thus preventing illness and promoting good health, than washing with less expensive soap and water,” according to the complaint.

Plaintiffs also argue that since 2001 the company has promoted the health benefits of triclosan, an active ingredient in Dial Complete that was originally developed as a surgical scrub for medical professionals.

The allegedly false claims include that Dial Complete 1) is “over 1,000 times more effective at killing disease-causing germs than other antibacterial liquid hand soaps,” 2) can kill “99.99% of bacteria” and “99.9% of illness-causing bacteria,” 3) reduces “disease transmission by 50% compared to washing with a plain soap,” 4) can kill “more germs than any other liquid hand soap,” and 5) that Dial Complete prevents and/or protects consumers from contracting serious illnesses caused by streptococcal infections, salmonella, E. coli, and staphylococcus bacteria.

But “[i]n truth, [Dial] has no independent, competent and reliable support for these claims,” according to the complaint.

Although Dial ads reference study results, the plaintiff contends that the study was performed by Dial itself and only two strains of bacteria were tested, while several other studies about triclosan have concluded that washing with soap and water is more effective.

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages under New York’s false advertising law as well as damages for breach of contract, negligent design, failure to warn, and unjust enrichment for a class of New York residents.

To read the complaint in Feuer v. The Dial Corp., click here.

Why it matters: Triclosan is an increasingly controversial ingredient. Several European Union countries have restricted or banned the use of triclosan, and in 2005 the Food and Drug Administration concluded that the use of triclosan soaps and sanitizers does not reduce the risk of illness and infection in the home. The Feuer lawsuit joins similar complaints filed against The Dial Corporation in Florida and Ohio.