Because consumers now prefer to buy products with natural, non-synthetic ingredients, the word “natural” can influence choices and even induce consumers to pay more for a product than for a similar but synthetic product. The complaint for this class action alleges that the Kimberly-Clark Corporation deceptively advertises its Scott flushable cleansing cloths as “natural” when in reality they contain a number of synthetic ingredients.
This class action proposes a nationwide class as well as two subclasses. The nationwide class includes all consumers who bought the product anywhere in the US during the class period. The New York and California subclasses include all such persons who bought the product in New York or California respectively. The complaint does not define the class period.
In 2013, the complaint says, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) put out a Draft Guidance Decision Tree for Classification of Materials as Synthetic or Nonsynthetic (Natural). According to this, a substance is natural if:
The packaging for the Scott product prominently displays the word “naturals” on the front, but the complaint alleges that the product actually contains a number of non-natural, synthetic ingredients, including sodium chloride, sodium benzoate, phenoxyethanol, malic acid, polysorbate 20, lauryl glucoside, and sorbic acid.
The following are some of the complaint’s notes on these ingredients:
Sodium chloride: a hazardous chemical substance.
Lauryl glucoside: a synthetic surfactant or dispersant.
Sodium benzoate: a synthetic preservative that has been shown to cause DNA and chromosomal damage; can combine with ascorbic acid to create benzene, a toxic carcinogen.
Malic acid: a synthetic acid.
Polysorbate 20: a synthetic emulsifier and/or surface-active agent.
Sorbic acid: a synthetic preservative.
Phenoxyethanol: a synthetic material that is toxic under federal law. Animal testing has shown it to be lethal even in small doses; it is toxic to the kidneys, the nervous system, and the liver and hazardous in case of skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation. It degrades into substances even more toxic.
The complaint says that consumers are not expected to read the ingredient list on the back of a product to verify or debunk the prominent “natural” claims on the front of the package. According to the complaint the use of the word “natural” on the front of this product violates state and federal laws against false advertising, deceptive business practices, and warranty.