Burt’s Bees has “perpetrated a massive deception” on pet owners by claiming that its dog shampoos and conditioners are “99.7% Natural,” a proposed class action alleges.
The 23-page case alleges the Clorox Co. subsidiary’s lineup of 15 purportedly “natural” dog and cat shampoos and conditioners contain an array of decidedly synthetic, unnatural ingredients that may be harmful to pets. Moreover, the lawsuit, filed in New York’s Southern District on June 3, charges that the actual natural substances in the products, including honey, beeswax, colloidal oatmeal and buttermilk powder, are present in only “minute amounts.”
Per the complaint, the FTC has made clear that a retailer may not represent any product as 100% or all natural if it contains one or more synthetic ingredients. Although the FTC does not regulate pet shampoos, the suit contends that consumers have the right to take companies’ natural claims “at their word.”
“As a multimillion dollar corporation and an international industry leader, Burt’s is keenly aware of its regulatory environment and the risks associated with non-compliance,” the lawsuit says, noting the FTC’s stance that pet product ads must be truthful and must not misrepresent any health-related benefits. “Burt’s has violated the law for many years, has not heeded the FTC’s warnings, and has found great success in deceiving the public.”
As a result of Burt’s Bees advertising, consumers have paid a premium for the company’s shampoos and conditioners over comparable products that “did not purport to be substantially All Natural,” the case alleges.
Which Burt’s Bees shampoos and conditioners are mentioned?
Central to the lawsuit is the fact that many dogs suffer from seasonal allergies and skin conditions, which the case stresses can be treated properly by shampoos and conditioners that contain minimal synthetic ingredients and utilize natural components like oat protein, aloe vera and eucalyptus, among others. The plaintiff, a Rockland County, New York resident, alleges Burt’s Bees has systematically and prominently advertised, labeled and packaged the following products in a way that’s misled consumers to believe they are free from potentially harmful ingredients:
Puppy Tearless Shampoo
Hypoallergenic Shampoo for Cats
Tearless Kitten Shampoo
2-in-1 Tearless Shampoo & Conditioner
Soothing Hot Spot Shampoo
Shed Control Shampoo
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What does the case say is in the shampoos?
According to the lawsuit, each of the above-listed products is made up of “at least 15%” synthetic chemicals, a far cry from Burt’s Bees’ 99.7 percent natural representations. For instance, the products purchased by the plaintiff, Burt’s Bees Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs and 2-in-1 Tearless Shampoo and Conditioner for Puppies, are among those whose “weightiest” ingredients are coco betaine, coco glucoside, glyceryl oleate, disodium cocoyl glutamate, glycerin and xanthan gum.
“The reasonable consumer perceives ’99.7% Natural’ as indicating the absence of synthetic substances, harsh detergents and toxic chemicals,” the suit reads.
The consumer, who owns a four-month-old rottweiler-golden retriever mix named Bo, came to learn after grooming the dog that substances like coco betaine can penetrate the skin and be harmful, the suit says. The lawsuit claims dog and cat owners have reported that their pets have died “shortly after using Burt’s Bees shampoos.” The suit cites one veterinarian who, after performing an autopsy on a cat, said she uncovered some form of toxicity potentially linked to the cat’s habit of grooming itself, during which it may have ingested Burt’s Bees shampoo.
“Plaintiff is appalled and disgusted, and now seeks to effect through this suit a much-needed correction of Defendant’s unfair and deceptive practices,” the case says.
Who does the lawsuit look to represent?
The lawsuit looks to represent all persons who have bought one or more of the above-listed products at any time within the applicable statute of limitations period in New York.
What if I don’t live in New York?
If you purchased the products at issue in this case, don’t live in New York and want to take legal action, you may want to reach out to an attorney in your area to start a class action lawsuit. It’s possible other cases covering wider groups of Burt’s Bees customers could be filed in the future.
How do I get added to the case?
For most class action lawsuits, there’s nothing you have to do to “join” or get added to the case. Generally, it’s only if and when a case is settled that consumers will need to take action. You can learn more about that process here.
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