Four companies that marketed their personal care products as "natural," "all natural," or "100% natural" agreed to a deal with the Federal Trade Commission after the agency asserted that the claims were false and deceptive.
The defendants each sold their products online and touted them as natural. For example, Trans-India Products, Inc. offered "All Natural Hand and Body Lotion" and "All Natural Moisturizing Gel" on its own websites and third-party sites. The lotion, however, contains dimethicone, ethyhexyl glycerin and phenoxyethanol, while the gel has phenoxyethanol, the FTC alleged.
Similarly, Erickson Marketing Group's "all natural" line—including the "Natural Face Stick"—actually contains dimethicone, polyethylene, and other synthetic ingredients, according to the agency, while ABS Consumer Products touted the purity of its "Coconut Shea All Natural Styling Elixer" and "Jojoba Monoi All Natural Shampoo" despite the inclusion of synthetic ingredients, including polyquaternium-37, caprylyl glycol, and phenoxyethanol. The final defendant, Beyond Coastal, described its product as "Natural Sunscreen SPF 30" even though the product had dimethicone included, the FTC said.
To settle the charges, the four companies are subject to consent orders barring them from future misrepresentations, and when advertising, promoting, or selling a product they must truthfully describe whether the product is all natural, or 100 percent natural, the extent to which the product contains any natural or synthetic components, the ingredients or composition of the product, and the environmental or health benefits of the product.
Further, the defendants must have and rely upon competent and reliable evidence to support any product claims, and in appropriate circumstances competent and reliable scientific evidence, defined as "tests, analyses, research, or studies that have been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by qualified persons, using procedures generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results."
For a five-year period, each of the companies must retain all advertising and promotional material and make such material available to the FTC. The consent orders are open for public comment until May 12.
The FTC said a fifth defendant, California Naturel, sold "all natural sunscreen" on its website that the agency alleged contains dimethicone. For the alleged violations of Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act, the agency filed an administrative complaint.
To read the complaint and consent order in In the Matter of Trans-India Products, click here.
To read the complaint and consent order in In the Matter of The Erickson Marketing Group, click here.
To read the complaint and consent order in In the Matter of ABS Consumer Products, click here.
To read the complaint and consent order in In the Matter of Beyond Coastal, click here.
To read the administrative complaint in In the Matter of California Naturel, click here.
Why it matters: For years consumers have waged a battle against products labeled "natural" or "all natural"—and now the FTC has joined in. The agency's first actions challenging "natural" claims for personal care products put advertisers on notice. "'All natural' or '100 percent natural' means just that—no artificial ingredients or chemicals," Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement about the action. "Companies should take a lesson from these cases."