Unilever and Conopco are the defendants in a proposed class action lawsuit that alleges the companies’ St. Ives brand of “natural” skin and body care products contain a number of synthetic ingredients.
According to the 18-page complaint out of New York’s Eastern District, the below St. Ives products have been misleadingly labeled by the defendants as “100% natural” when they, in truth, contain synthetic ingredients such as phenoxyethanol, dimethicone, sodium laureth sulfate and/or methylisothiazolinone:
- St. Ives Collagen Elastin Body Lotion;
- St. Ives Coconut & Orchid Body Lotion;
- St. Ives Vitamin E & Avocado Body Lotion;
- St. Ives Cranberry & Grapeseed Oil Body Lotion;
- St. Ives Pear Nectar & Soy Body Lotion;
- St. Ives Cucumber Water & Melon Body Lotion;
- St. Ives Nourish & Soothe Oatmeal and Shea Butter Body Lotion;
- St. Ives Coconut Milk & Orchid Extract Body Lotion;
- St. Ives Vitamin E Body Lotion;
- St. Ives Natural Fruit AHA Complex Body Lotion;
- St. Ives Mineral Therapy Body Lotion;
- St. Ives Almond & Linseed Body Lotion;
- St. Ives Oatmeal and Shea Butter Body Wash;
- St. Ives Coconut & Orchid Body Wash;
- St. Ives Vanilla Body Wash;
- St. Ives Pink Lemon & Mandarin Orange Body Wash;
- St. Ives Pear Nectar & Soy Body Wash,
- St. Ives Apricot Body Wash; and
- St. Ives Sea Salt & Kelp Body Wash.
The suit lays out a timeline starting at the end of 2015, when Unilever and Conopco reportedly changed the wording on the labels of the above products to reflect they were “Made with 100% Natural” ingredients, a shift away from indications that the body care goods were “100% Natural.” According to the case, the defendants made the switch in the midst of a trend of “natural labeling” litigation, in what the lawsuit claims was “an effort to continue to generate” robust sales. The complaint charges that Unilever and Conopco knew full-well what their new St. Ives product labeling would mean to reasonable consumers and went ahead with the rollout anyway despite knowing the products contained less-than-natural ingredients. From the case:
“Although some consumers might construe a phrase like ‘Made with 100% Natural Moisturizers’ to refer only to select ingredients in the products, a substantial number of reasonable consumers construe that phrase to mean the entire product is natural, particularly when viewed in the context of other cues of ‘naturalness’ on the front labeling. That is why Defendant made the labeling change. As a result, the new ‘made with’ labeling at issue here has the tendency or capacity to deceive or confuse a significant portion of the general consuming public or of targeted consumers, acting reasonably in the circumstances.
Defendants knew that consumers will pay more for a product labeled ‘natural,’ and intended to deceive Plaintiff and putative class members by labeling St. Ives Body Moisturizer, Exfoliant, and Extracts, as purportedly natural products.”
Per the plaintiff, the case says the man regularly bought the defendants’ St. Ives body lotion and body wash products from roughly the end of 2014 through mid-2017. For each purchase, the plaintiff, according to the case, “saw and read the front of the product packaging” and relied on the “all-natural” representations made thereon when deciding which to buy. The plaintiff claims he “understood these representations to mean” the St. Ives products did not contain synthetic ingredients and would not have paid what the case calls “a substantial price premium” had he known the lotion and body wash’s labeling was false.