Class-Action Lawsuit Claims that Purell Makes Misleading Claims About its Hand Sanitizer
Anywhere you turn, people are flocking to the store for things that they absolutely cannot find. Besides toilet paper, shoppers are trying in vain to get there hands on a simple bottle of Purell, only to find that the shelves have been stripped bare and there is no hope of locating a coveted bottle. However, not all customers are happy with the makers of Purell. Some customers have filed a class-action lawsuit against the maker of the product for allegedly making misleading claims about their product. Specifically, consumers believe that Purell has made a false claim about its product when it claims that the sanitizer can kill "99.99 percent of germs."
Purell Is the Company Du Jour in the COVID-19 Crisis
Coronavirus and the CDC have created boom times for GOJO, which makes Purell. The product has long been present on store shelves but fades into the background as hand sanitizer usually does not get much publicity. Now, everything about the product is under scrutiny as customers must have it as part of their daily routine. Even the way that Purell markets its product has come under fire as people are suddenly paying close attention.
The specific claim at issue is the fact that the company claims that its product kills 99.99 percent of germs. If you remember, Ivory Soap once made a claim that its product was 99.44 percent pure. However, this was backed up by lab results that could at least make a colorable argument that Ivory's product lived up to the marketing claims by some metric. However, the plaintiffs claim that there is no scientific evidence that stands by Purell's representation that its sanitizer is nearly foolproof in defeating germs.
Purell Has Previously Been in Trouble with the FDA for its Claims
The plaintiffs are not alone in believing that Purell's makers may stretch things a bit in order to place its company at the center of efforts to prevent whichever disease is foremost in the public consciousness. Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning against the company and the marketing claims that it was making. Purell has at times claimed that it could prevent the common flu, Ebola, MRSA, VRE and the norovirus. The list does not stop there as that is just a representative sample of the diseases to which Purell has linked itself. The FDA cautioned against the unverified claims that Purell was making. The FDA's letter stated that it was unaware of any studies that backed up Purell's claims. As a result of the FDA's letter, Purell updated its marketing materials to remove the unverified claims.
In general, Purell has come under scrutiny for other practices during this crisis. They have been accused of profiteering by raising the price. Retailers are marking up the price even more, leading to accusations of price gouging against the sellers. The irony is that hand sanitizer is not the preferred method of cleaning hands to keep them safe from the coronavirus. Instead, the recommendation is that people should first seek to wash their hands with soap and water and should only use Purell if these are not available to them.
This particular lawsuit was filed in federal court in Ohio on March 13. There are four named plaintiffs who come from different states. The lawsuit takes issue with a number of statements made by Purell. In addition to arguing that the claims of 99.99 percent effectiveness have no scientific basis, the plaintiffs also believe that Purell is making a misleading claim when it says one squirt of its product has double the effectiveness of its competitors.
Manufacturers must be careful when they make any claim about their product whether it is express or implied. If the product does not live up to the marketing claims made by the manufacturer, the consumer does not get the benefit of the bargain. In this case, they may be entitled to their money back for the product that they have purchased. While this would be a small recovery for each consumer, the damages could pile up for a seller like Purell that sells millions of bottles of the sanitizer. Purell's makers deny all of the allegations contained in the lawsuit and claim that they stand behind their products 100 percent, as opposed to the 99.99 percent of germs that it claims that the hand sanitizer kills.
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