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Ninth Circuit Revives Deceptive Cosmetic Labeling Suit

he Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with cosmetic consumers that a reasonable person could be misled by a manufacturer's use of the word “natural” and “100% vegetarian” on its packaging and revived a suit against the company.

The lower court dismissed the case under a 12(b)(6) motion. However, the Ninth Circuit believed the plaintiffs had sufficiently pleaded their claims.

Free of synthetics?

The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. alleged its products were free of synthetic ingredients and charged consumers a higher price for its “100 % vegetarian” makeup.

The plaintiffs claimed they would not have paid the premium price as compared to other products if they were aware the products were not as claimed.

The plaintiffs stated a reasonable consumer would believe that Alba Botanica cosmetics were derived from plants because of the “100 % vegetarian” label.

The court ruled that whether a business engaged in deceptive or misleading practices was generally a question of fact.

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A manufacturer's ingredient list or information on its website in itself does not override any misimpressions created by the product labels. Williams v. Gerber Prods Co., 552 F.3d 934, 939 (9th Circ. 2008).

The court concluded that similar to other misleading label claims, the statements that the products were natural or vegetarian, “could be taken as a claim that no synthetic chemicals were in the products.”

The lower court's dismissal of the plaintiffs claim was reversed and remanded to consider the plaintiffs claims and the precertification discovery.

This case is Alessandra Balser et al. v. The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. Case No 14-55074, U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit, Pasadena CA.

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