NEW YORK & MINNEAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Consumers from New York and California filed a class action lawsuit in federal district court in New York today against KAS Direct LLC, alleging that the company uses deceptive marketing and business practices to promote its Babyganics line of infant-oriented health, hygiene, and personal-care and household cleaning products, said plaintiffs law firm Halunen Law.
Despite its name, the suit alleges that most Babyganics products are not manufactured using organic ingredients. Yet the company’s marketing has made them appear as the organic and therefore safer and healthier – if costlier – alternative to thousands of American parents concerned about reducing their babies’ physical exposure at home to potentially harmful synthetic chemicals the complaint alleges. Most Babyganics infant care products are applied directly to the skin, such as sunscreens, diaper rash rubs, insect repellents, and hand and face wipes. The suit alleges that consumers have become increasingly concerned about the effects of synthetic and chemical ingredients in their products and that Babyganics is capitalizing on consumers’ concerns and their desire for “organic products.”
The lawsuit alleges that the Babyganics name violates various consumer protection statutes in California and New York, and by extension throughout the United States, since Babyganics products are marketed through various retail channels on a national basis. The lawsuit asks the court to award class damages from KAS/Babyganics in excess of $5 million and to require the company to cease using marketing practices that falsely portray it as an organic company making organically based products.
According to the complaint, the Babyganics deception begins with the brand name itself, which implies to consumers that the company is all about organic products, despite the inclusion of laboratory-derived chemicals in several products such as baby sunscreens and cleaning agents. The Babyganics business is built on the idea that consumers will pay more for organically-based products, because they perceive them to be more healthful and life-enhancing, the complaint states. The Babyganics name, itself an artificially contrived admixture of baby and organics, was deliberately selected to suggest to consumers that Babyganics differentiates itself – falsely – by making products free of synthetic chemical intrusion or composition, says the complaint.
“Consumers deserve truth in labeling and should have confidence that they can rely on product labels when making purchasing decisions. We are talking about calling products ‘organic’ that contain potentially harmful chemicals—we will fight hard to right what we believe is a wrong,” says Melissa Wolchansky, attorney with Minneapolis-based Halunen Law, one of three law firms filing the class action lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs Tanya Mayhew in New York and Tanveer Alibhai in California.
The deception allows Babyganics to charge premium prices for its products, a practice that has unjustly enriched the company to the tune of millions of dollars, the complaint alleges. So successful was Babyganics strategy that it appeared on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing private companies in America in 2014, after reporting a 277 percent annual growth rate for the previous three years.
Plaintiff Mayhew purchased the Products because she saw the labeling, advertising, the Defendant’s website, and read the packaging, which represented that the products are “Organic” and “Mineral-Based.” The marketing convinced her that Babyganics products were worth the premium prices she paid for them, when in fact she now believes the products are worth less than she paid.
Plaintiff Alibhai sought to reduce her young child’s sun exposure risk in purchasing the Babyganics mineral-based sunscreen, believing it to be free of chemical sunscreens. Her child developed a skin rash from using the product, after which she discovered that Babyganics included several chemicals, including Octinoxate and Octisalate, two active chemical sunscreens that the Environmental Working Group (a member of a “sun safety coalition” with KAS/Babyganics) tells consumers are under scrutiny in Europe for potentially harmful human impacts. By featuring the product as “mineral based,” Plaintiff Alibhai alleges that Babyganics purposely sought to deceive health-conscious consumers into believing the product was free of chemical sunscreens.
All told, Babyganics markets dozens of products for infant and household care. While many of them contain some organic ingredients, they fall short of meeting the legal standard for labeling a product as organic, as defined by the California Organic Products Act of 2003 and the National Organics Program, the complaint alleges. COPA mandates that “no product shall be sold as organic pursuant to this article unless it is produced according to regulations promulgated by the NOP, and consists entirely of products manufactured only from raw or processed agricultural products.”
Class action lawsuits are an effective means for redressing marketplace fraud and deceit, empowering consumers – and the legal system – to take action collectively against practices that may not, on an individual transaction basis, be practical to litigate. “We stand up for consumers against retail fraud, that’s what lawyers like myself do,” says Wolchansky. “I encourage any consumer who believes they are victims of systematic retail fraud to contact a class action law firm such as Halunen Law or my co-counsel at Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca and The Sultzer Law Group.”
About Halunen Law
Halunen Law has expertise in litigating consumer class actions and a track record of success in challenging dishonest marketing, corporate fraud and illegal business practices. Halunen also offers experienced representation to employees and whistleblowers under the False Claims Act and other statutes. Visit the firm’s website at www.halunenlaw.com.
About Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca, LLP
Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca has litigated scores of defective building products and consumer cases and recovered over $2 billion for its clients. Cuneo represents individuals and businesses that have been victims of antitrust violations, faulty products, civil rights violations, and securities fraud. Learn more about Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca at http://www.cuneolaw.com, Washington, D.C. | Tel: (202) 789-3960.
About The Sultzer Law Group P.C.
The Sultzer Law Group, P.C. focuses on complex civil litigation, including consumer class actions. The firm is headquartered in New York, and maintains offices in California, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Since its founding in 2013, The Sultzer Law Group, P.C. has served as lead counsel in numerous high-profile consumer class action cases. The firm’s attorneys have contributed to or been featured in various well known publications regarding their class action practice, including: Law360, Inside Counsel Magazine, Risk Management Magazine, and CNBC News. More detail about the firm, its practice areas, and its attorneys appears on its website: www.thesultzerlawgroup.com.