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Neutrogena’s Use of ‘Natural’ Costs $1.8 Million

30 Jan, 2013 By: Doug McPherson

NEW YORK – If you’re naturally inclined to use the word natural in your advertising, think twice before you do it again. The word ended up costing Neutrogena $1.8 million – the price to settle a consumer class action alleging the company falsely advertised its cosmetic products as natural.

The company will pay $1.3 million into a settlement fund for the nationwide class, as well as $500,000 in attorneys’ fees. Class members can recover up to $10 each ($1 per cleanser product purchased and $2 for each moisturizer product). Any remaining funds will be distributed to “an appropriate nonprofit or civic entity(ies)” chosen by the court.

According to the suit, six Neutrogena products: the pore scrub, face and body bar, cleaner, makeup remover, and multiple moisturizers all have “chemically derived, synthetic fragrances.” Only the company’s lip balm, touted as “pure, natural skin care,” was natural.

Neutrogena has agreed to change its product labeling and some packaging, and it’ll remove the term “petrochemicals” from its claim that the product line contains “no harsh chemical sulfates, parabens, petrochemicals, dyes, or phthalates.”

A hearing for preliminary approval of the settlement is set for late February.

Legal experts say products advertised as “natural” – ranging from cosmetics to ice cream to deodorant – are a target for class action lawsuits because the term has not been defined by either state or federal regulators. But the FDA has said it will address this issue this year.

In the meantime, marketers should ensure that when making a “natural” claim, it can be supported with adequate and reliable evidence.

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