Walmart faces a proposed class action that alleges the “hypoallergenic” and “tear-free” claims on a handful of the mega retailer’s personal care products are false and misleading in that the items contain allergens.
Despite packaging representations on Walmart’s private label skin care and baby care products, the items are, according to the 48-page lawsuit, “chock-full of a significant array and substantial amount of known skin sensitizers (allergens).” Per the suit, Walmart has deceived consumers with regard to the nature, quality and ingredients of its products and thereby reaped significant profits by charging a premium price for purportedly “hypoallergenic” body care items and “tear-free” baby shampoos and washes.
“Walmart intended for consumers to rely on its representations, and hundreds of thousands of reasonable consumers did in fact so rely,” the complaint states. “As a result of its false and misleading labeling, Walmart was able to sell these products to hundreds of thousands of consumers throughout the United States and to profit handsomely from these transactions.”
According to the lawsuit, as much as 70 percent of the U.S. population is allergic to at least one personal care product ingredient, and anywhere between 14 and 70 percent of children suffer from skin allergies. The case notes that when a person’s skin is exposed to a sufficient amount of an allergen, it becomes “sensitized” and can exhibit upon re-exposure symptoms ranging from redness, oedema (fluid retention), scaling, fissures, vesicles and bubble-like cavities to “eventually oozing.” The prevalence of contact dermatitis leads consumers to seek out hypoallergenic products in an attempt to avoid triggering a skin allergy and “repeating the inflammatory cascade,” the case says.
Walmart, the lawsuit alleges, has capitalized on consumers’ desire for hypoallergenic products by labeling some of its skin care items as “hypoallergenic” and, in some cases, “tear-free” when the products, unbeknownst to buyers, contain skin allergens and irritants known to cause allergic reactions and skin damage. Some of the baby care products labeled as “tear-free” also contain ingredients that can cause “serious eye damage,” the case attests.
The lawsuit claims the following Walmart products are falsely and misleadingly advertised as “hypoallergenic,” with some touted also as “tear-free”:
2-in-1 Baby Wash & Shampoo
Antibacterial Hand Wipes
Baby Laundry Detergent
Baby Oil Cream
Baby Sunscreen Lotion
Baby Wash & Shampoo
Bath for Nighttime/Nighttime Bath
Diaper Rash Ointment
Diaper Rash Paste
Diaper Rash Relief
Kids Sunscreen Lotion
Kids Sunscreen Stick
Makeup Remover Towelettes
Wash & Shampoo
Per the case, Walmart’s “hypoallergenic” and “tear-free” products each contain one or more of a “shocking array” of chemicals, some of which the lawsuit says are classified as “Category 1 skin sensitizer[s]” by the United Nation’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals and others as “Core Allergens” according to the American Contact Dermatitis Society. The complaint, found here, contains a list of the ingredients allegedly found in the aforementioned “hypoallergenic” or “tear-free” products on pages 16 through 23.
The lawsuit claims consumers would not know “the true nature of the ingredients” in Walmart’s personal care products by merely reading the ingredients list given the discovery of such “requires investigation beyond the grocery store and knowledge of chemistry beyond that of the average reasonable consumer.” Moreover, Walmart allegedly adds some ingredients to its products without disclosing them in the ingredients list.
The defendant’s conduct, according to the case, is especially egregious given Walmart holds itself out as a trusted expert in the field of hypoallergenic, tear-free, gentle, mild and safe personal care products, leading consumers to reasonably rely on its representations.
Per the case, Walmart has violated federal and state regulations governing the labeling of personal care products and has, in the process, damaged consumers who would not have purchased the products, or would have paid less for them, had they known the truth.
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