Four companies that market personal-care products such as skin care products, shampoos, and sunscreens online have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they falsely claimed that their products are “all natural” or “100% natural,” despite the fact that they actually contain artificial ingredients. The Commission has issues a complaint against a fifth company for making similar claims.
Under the proposed settlements, each of the dour companies is barred from making similar misrepresentations in the future and must have competent and reliable evidence to substantiate any ingredient-related, environmental, or health claims it makes.
According to the FTC, each of the following companies maded the “all-natural” claim in online ads:
- Trans-India Products, Inc., doing business as ShiKai, based in Santa Rosa, California, markets “All Natural Hand and Body Lotion” and “All Natural Moisturizing Gel” both directly and through third-party websites including walgreens.com and vitacoast.com. The lotion contains Dimethicone, Ethyhexyl Glycerin, and Phenoxyethanol. The gel contains Phenoxyethanol.
- Erickson Marketing Group, doing business as Rocky Mountain Sunscreen, based in Aravada, Colorado, uses its website to promote “all natural” products such as the “Natural Face Stick,” which contains Dimethicone, Polyethylene, and other synthetic ingredients.
- ABS Consumer Products, LLC, doing business as EDEN BodyWorks, based in Memphis, Tennessee, markets haircare products on its own websites and at Walmart.com. It makes “all natural” claims for products including “Coconut Shea All Natural Styling Elixer” and “Jojoba Monoi All Natural Shampoo.” In reality, the products contain a range of synthetic ingredients such as Polyquaternium-37, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, and Polyquaternium-7.
- Beyond Coastal, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, uses its website to sell its “Natural Sunscreen SPF 30,” describing it as “100% natural.” However, it also contains Dimethicone.
- California Naturel, Inc., located in Sausalito, California, sells supposedly “all natural sunscreen” on its website, though the product contains Dimethicone. The Commission has issued a complaint alleging that California Naturel has made deceptive “all natural” claims in violation of Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act.
The proposed consent orders bar the four settling respondents from misrepresenting the following when advertsing, promoting, or selling a product:
- Whether the product is all natural or 100% natural.
- The extent to which the product contains any natural or synthetic ingredients
- The ingredients or composition of a product.
- The environmental or health benefits of a product.
The orders require the respondents to have and rely on competent and reliable evidence to support any product claims they make. Some claims require scientific evidence, which is defined as tests, analyses, research, or studies that have been conducted and evaluated objectively by qualified individuals using procedures generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results.
The Commission’s complaint against California Naturel seeks relief very similar to that found in the four proposed consent orders.
The Commission vote to issue each administrative complaint and to accept the four proposed consent agreements was 3-0. The FTC will public a description of the consent agreement packages in the Federal Register Shortly.
The agreements will be subject to public comment for 30 days, starting on yesterday, Tuesday, April 12, through May 12, 2016, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent orders final.
The Federal Trade Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $ 16,000.