Consumers launch a class action charging misrepresentations and false advertising, naturally
A class action complaint filed in July by New York and California residents in the Northern District of California takes aim at a series of Clorox-brand products that are marketed as comprising “green” or “natural” ingredients.
The Clorox Company is targeting eco-conscious consumers with its “Green Works” line of cleaning products, more than a dozen individual products characterized as containing “natural” and “naturally derived” ingredients. The products are decked out with green labels that feature leaves and flowers and prominently display the word “green.” “Cleaning done naturally” is stated on the back label of some of the products.
The complaint defines “natural” as “existing in nature and not made or caused by people; coming from nature” or “not having any extra substances or chemicals added; not containing anything artificial.”
In contrast to the claims, the plaintiffs allege, Clorox products boast at least 20 different synthetic ingredients. The offending list of components ranges from familiar household chemical agents like boric acid, lye and hydrogen peroxide to substances that sound like dreaded antagonists in a science-fiction movie: methylisothiazolinone, octylisothiazolinone, and dimethicone/silica antifoam.
In addition to being synthetic substances, claim the plaintiffs, some items on the ingredient list are potentially harmful to consumer health. According to the plaintiffs’ summary, health effects include possible developmental defects, higher likelihood of cancer, gastrointestinal irritation, ulceration, and hypercalcaemia – not the sort of effects consumers usually associate with “natural” products.
Plaintiffs are demanding monetary relief as well as a Clorox-run corrective advertising campaign to clarify its misrepresentations. All told, the company faces 11 counts, including fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, breach of warranty, false advertising, and Magnuson-Moss Warranty violations. As consumers become more environmentally conscious and companies strive to market products that appeal to that sentiment, we will undoubtedly see more cases like this.