A proposed class action alleges Neutrogena’s Pure & Free baby zinc oxide SPF 50 sunscreen stick costs almost twice as much as a “substantively identical” version of the sunscreen marketed toward adults.
The 12-page lawsuit claims Neutrogena manufacturer Johnson & Johnson Consumer has deceptively charged parents twice as much per ounce for the baby variety of the sunscreen based on the misrepresentation that it is better suited for babies’ needs than the adult variety.
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“The result is that parents will pay significantly more for such products, which is why, on a per ounce basis, the Baby version is $16.96, almost two times the price of the Adult version at $8.65,” the case states. “This price discrepancy confirms to parents they are buying different products, because they will not, at the point-of-purchase, theorize as to other explanations.”
Per the complaint, the baby variety is distinctly labeled with a pink design and statements such as “[an] extra-gentle formula [that] is ideal for baby’s delicate, sensitive skin,” “Pure & Free,” “Pure Screen,” “100% naturally sourced zinc oxide,” “fragrance free,” “ideal for delicate skin,” “ideal for face and body.”
Although these claims appear to distinguish the baby version from the adult version of the sunscreen, the filing argues that there is no significant difference between the products since both contain an identical amount of the active ingredient zinc oxide, and 12 of their 13 inactive ingredients are present in relatively similar amounts.
“The only difference is the thirteenth and least predominant ingredient, which is avena sativa (oat) kernel oil in the Baby version and tocopheryl acetate in the Adult version,” the suit reads.
The case contends that the presence of oat kernel oil in the baby variety does not sufficiently explain the price discrepancy given the benefits of sunscreen are derived exclusively from its active ingredients, the minimal price difference between the ingredients, and their extremely similar in makeup.
According to the complaint, Johnson & Johnson Consumer’s alleged misconduct is an example of the so-called “kid tax,” whereby companies impose additional costs for the children’s varieties of substantially similar or identical personal care products.
“The ‘kids’ tax’ exists because studies have shown that demand for children’s versions of personal care products is inelastic, since parents are less sensitive to paying higher prices when they believe they are buying products specifically formulated for their children,” the filing explains.
The case compares the kid tax to the so-called “pink tax,” a form of gender discrimination in which prices for female-specific products or services are higher than nearly identical products offered for men.
The lawsuit looks to represent anyone in New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire or Rhode Island who purchased the baby version over the adult version of Neutrogena zinc oxide SPF 50 sunscreen stick during the applicable statute of limitations period.
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