The California Attorney General’s Office has filed a brief in support of appealing the dismissal of a proposed class-action lawsuit filed in San Diego that alleged Wet Ones Antibacterial Hand Sanitizing Wipes were falsely advertised as killing “99.99% of germs.”
The lawsuit filed in July of 2020 by San Diego resident Lauren Souter alleged the manufacturers of the Wet Ones hand wipes falsely promoted the product’s ability to kill germs. The suit alleged the hand wipes’ active ingredient, benzalkonium chloride, is “ineffective against non-enveloped viruses, certain gram negative bacteria, and spores.” The suit also alleged there were misrepresentations that the wipes were “hypoallergenic and gentle on skin.”
Last year, U.S. District Judge Todd W. Robinson dismissed the suit, finding that a “reasonable consumer” would not be misled by the statements presented on the product label.
The case is currently being appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In an amicus brief filed Monday, the Attorney General’s Office argued the judge’s ruling assumed consumers would only expect Wet Ones to kill 99.99% of germs that “are typically prevented by ensuring one’s hands are clean.”
The brief states that “reasonable consumers approach advertising differently than courts or lawyers parsing statutes or contracts” and that courts should consider evidence on real-world consumer behavior in order to “better understand the market circumstances and everyday realities within which consumers make purchase decisions.”
In a statement, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said, “It is challenging enough for consumers to make healthy, well-informed purchasing decisions without worrying that advertisers might be making deceptive claims about their products. When companies make claims about their products, they have a responsibility to ensure those claims are fully accurate, and when consumers raise plausible allegations that advertising is misleading, they have a right to their day in court. I urge the Ninth Circuit to reverse the district court’s decision and allow this case to move forward.”
— City News Service