No reasonable consumer would believe that Fiji Water’s “green drop” seal declared the product environmentally sound by a third-party organization, a California appellate court recently held.
The court affirmed the dismissal of a class-action lawsuit alleging that Fiji Water misled consumers into believing that its water had been endorsed by an environmental organization, when the “green drop” seal was really a self-created marketing tool.
Emphasizing the increasing awareness and sensitivity to environmental issues, the plaintiff argued that consumers are searching for products that are “environmentally superior.” Playing into those desires, Fiji attempted to deceive consumers with the use of a “green drop” seal of approval on the front product label that “looks similar to environmental ‘seals of approval’ by several independent, third-party organizations,” according to the complaint.
But the court said the plaintiff’s claims were all wet.
Looking to the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides, which the state of California has incorporated into law (although the Guides themselves are only administrative interpretations and not enforceable regulations), the court said that the plaintiff’s beliefs did not satisfy the reasonable consumer standard. “Does the green drop on Fiji water bottles convey to a reasonable consumer in the circumstances that the product is endorsed for environmental superiority by a third-party organization? No,” the court said.
The drop itself “bears no name or recognized logo of any group, much less a third-party organization, no trademark symbol, and no other indication that it is anything but a symbol of Fiji water. . . . Fiji water has just a green drop, the drop being the most logical icon for its particular product – water,” the three-judge panel wrote. The context of the green drop further supported the conclusion that reasonable consumers would not be misled, the court said. “[A] green drop on the back of every bottle appears right next to the Web site name, ‘fijigreen.com,’ further confirming to a reasonable consumer that the green drop symbol is by Fiji water, not an independent third-party organization – and, of course, inviting consumers to visit the Web site for product information, which includes Fiji Water’s explanation of its environmental efforts,” the court said.
To read the court’s order in Hill v. Roll International, click here.
Why it matters: The ruling is a victory for Fiji Water, as the suit was dismissed with prejudice. However, the company still faces another recently filed class action suit, which also makes environmental claims against the company. Fiji’s multiple suits over environmental claims highlight both the increasing use of such claims and the rising number of consumer lawsuits over green marketing.