A proposed class action suit was filed June 5 in an Illinois federal court, alleging that big chain store, Target, is misleading consumers by claiming that its branded alcohol-based hand sanitizer kills 99.99% of all germs.
The suit follows similar ones filed last year during the outset of the coronavirus pandemic against Vi-Jon’s branded hand sanitizer, which is sold at Walmart, Walgreens and CVS. Lawsuits were also filed against GOJO Industries, the maker of Purell.
Plaintiff Mike Ross claims in his lawsuit against Target that despite the chain’s assertion that the hand sanitizer kills virtually all germs on contact, it is actually incapable of rendering inert many prevalent viruses, Law360.com reports. One virus in particular that Ross’ lawsuit contents that Target hand sanitizer is ineffectual against are noroviruses. This group of viruses cause nearly 60% of food-borne illnesses in the US.
Other germs that Ross’ complaint says are not killed by Target hand sani- include protozoan cysts, bacterial spores, Giardia and the diarrhea-causing Clostridium difficile (C. Dif.).
Although Law360.com does not mention whether or not COVID-19 or other coronaviruses are listed in the complaint, it would stand to reason that consumers would expect with a claim of 99.99% effective at killing all viruses, they would be protected by using the personal hygiene product.
However, Ross’ suit says that there is no scientific study to back Target’s claim that it’s hand sanitizer effectively kills 99.99% of viruses.
“By claiming to kill 99.9% of germs, reasonable consumers will expect the product is effective against one of the most prevalent viruses, when it is not,” Ross said in the lawsuit, per Law360.com.
Ross’ complaint added, “Reasonable consumers must and do rely on a company to honestly identify and describe the components, attributes and features of the product, relative to itself and other comparable products or alternatives, such as soap and water.
“The value of the product that plaintiff purchased was materially less than its value as represented by defendant. Defendant sold more of the product and at a higher prices than it would have in the absence of this misconduct, resulting in additional profits at the expense of consumers.”
The complaint acknowledges that the back of Target’s alcohol-based hand sanitizer contains a disclaimer that reads, “effective at eliminating 99.99% of many common harmful germs and bacteria in as little as 15 seconds.”
But the fine print here, Ross’ complaint argues, does not “overcome the misleading claims on the front label.”
Scrubbing one’s hands for a full 15 seconds would still render the product ineffective against many viruses, the complaint suggests.
As of now, the proposed class is only seeking residents of Illinois. Target is accused of breaches of express warranty, implied warranty of merchantability and Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, unjust enrichment, and violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, per Law360.com.