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E-retailer The Honest Co. is sued over product ingredients and labels

September 4, 2015 02:57 PM
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A lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco alleges that online retailer The Honest Co.—actress Jessica Alba’s company touting natural, nontoxic children’s products—sells sunscreen that doesn’t work and uses synthetic ingredients in items that it claims to be natural.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday by Los Angeles resident Jonathan D. Rubin, seeks class-action status. A spokeswoman for The Honest Company, No. 195 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, did not respond immediately to the allegations.

Rubin alleges that Honest Co., which sells bath and personal care products, engages in false and deceptive advertising and that it charges a premium for the products labeled natural and nontoxic. The lawsuit is filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.

“Honest uses Honest.com, Amazon.com, along with other social media, including Facebook and Twitter, television advertisements and public appearances, to extensively market the products with misleading and untrue marketing representations to consumers,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit says Rubin bought Honest sunscreen, lemongrass Honest hand soap and white grapefruit Honest dish soap at supermarket chain Gelson’s Markets in Los Angeles, paying a premium over competing products that don’t claim to be natural. The lawsuit says that Honest sells its products at a 10-20% premium, based on the marketing claims.

Rubin’s attorney, Nicholas A. Carlin, a partner at law firm Phillips, Erlewine, Given & Carlin LLP in San Francisco, calls Rubin “an ordinary guy trying to do some good for other people.”

Carlin says media stories and consumer complaints in the past month about The Honest Co.’s sunscreen not working prompted Rubin to take a closer look at the products. The lawsuit says the Amazon Marketplace website includes customer reviews citing sunburn and blisters from sun exposure after applying Honest Sunscreen. Rubin didn’t get sunburned himself, Carlin says.

Rubin claims that the diapers, dish soap and hand soap contain synthetic ingredients. Specifically, he says the diapers contain a petrochemical-based additive, sodium polycrylate, and that the multipurpose cleaner and the hand and dish soaps include synthetic preservatives. Rubin seeks at least $5 million in damages and asks that profits from sales of the products be refunded to consumers.

Honest Co., founded in 2012, had Internet Retailer-estimated 2014 web sales of $149.2 million, according to Top500Guide.com data.
 

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