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Unilever and Retailers “Pink Tax” Pricing Discrimination Missouri Class Action

Degree Brand Male and Female Antiperspirants

What’s the Pink Tax? It’s the extra amount charged on women’s products as compared to similar products for men. The complaint for this class action alleges that a number of companies are guilty of this gender-based price discrimination, including Conopco, Inc. (Unilever), Walgreen Co., CVS Pharmacy, Inc., Walmart, Inc. Target Corporation, Schnuck Markets, Inc., and Dierbergs Markets, Inc.

The class for this action is all Missouri consumers who, between September 12, 2014 and September 12, 2019, bought Degree brand Dry Protection antiperspirant and deodorant from any of the retail defendants in this case in Missouri.

The complaint alleges that the practice of charging more for women’s products is systematic and widespread, and that it “add[s] another layer to the wage inequality that women face…” “In fact,” it says, “… in 1994, the State of California estimated that the average woman is charged an extra $1,351.00 per year, simply for being a woman; those numbers have only increased over the last two decades.”

Some areas of the country have already outlawed these kinds of pricing differences, including New York, California, and Missouri, and Miami-Dade County in Florida.

The complaint admits that in some instances, gender price differences are justified. “However, for every ‘justified’ instance of gender-discrimination in pricing, there are scores more instances where the practice is unjustified and completely unfair.” This case, the complaint says, is about “a particularly pernicious and predatory example” involving “the pricing of a nearly identical female-marketed product at a substantially higher price than its male-marketed counterpart.”

The product at issue in this case is sold under the Degree brand from Unilever. It includes the Degree Dry Protection line, but not its Stay Fresh, Black & White, or MotionSense lines.

The Dry Protection products, which are aimed at women, come in three varieties, Shower Clean, Sheer Powder, and Sheer Lilac. According to the complaint, all three have the same basic ingredients. Unilever also makes a male-oriented product under the Degree brand in a line called Original Protection.

The complaint compares the ingredients of the two types of antiperspirants. It finds that (a) the male product contains every ingredient in the female product except for two, C12-15 alkyl benzoate and polyethylene, and (b) the male product contains “multiple” ingredients not contained in the female product.

According to the complaint, neither of the two additional ingredients in the female product are rare or expensive. And if the multiple additional ingredients in the male product are taken into consideration, the complaint says, it is unlikely that the differences in the products justify a price difference. Yet every one of the defendants, it says, charges more for the female product.

Since Missouri is one of the states that forbids this kind of pricing discrimination, the complaint brings suit under the Missouri law.

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