Order bars company from deceptively labeling products as “all natural”

The Federal Trade Commission has granted summary decision against California Naturel, Inc., for falsely advertising its sunscreen product as “all natural” in violation of Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act.

In its opinion, written by Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, the Commission states that the company promotes its “all natural” sunscreen on its website as containing “only the purest, most luxurious and effective ingredients found in nature.”  But California Naturel admitted that eight percent of its sunscreen formula is in fact dimethicone, a synthetic ingredient.

The Commission was not persuaded by the company’s argument that its ingredient list and a disclaimer recently added to the company’s web page cured its misleading advertising, noting that consumers should not have to search for and dig out information that contradicts what an advertisement expressly and prominently conveys. For example, the “all natural” claims were prominent on the webpage, while the disclaimer was added to the bottom of the webpage, was not visible without scrolling down, and was well below the “Add to Cart” button.

The Commission’s final order prohibits California Naturel from misrepresenting the ingredients or composition of its products; whether a product is “all natural” or “100% natural;” the extent to which a product contains any natural or synthetic ingredient or component; or the environmental or health benefits of such a product. It also requires the company to have competent and reliable evidence to support any of the four foregoing claims it makes about any of its products.

The final order and accompanying opinion resulted from an administrative complaint issued against California Naturel in April 2016. FTC staff trying the case requested the summary decision.

The Commission vote approving the Commission Opinion and Final Order was 3-0, with Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen dissenting in part and issuing a separate statement. In her statement, Commissioner Ohlhausen agrees that California Naturel’s unqualified “all natural” claims were false and misleading in violation of Sections 5 and 12 at the time they were made, but disagrees with the Commission’s grant of summary decision regarding the effect of California Naturel’s later-added disclaimers because in her view, that issue was not properly before the Commission.

The company may file a petition for review of the Commission Opinion and Final Order with a United States Court of Appeals within 60 days of when the Order is served.