Germ-X, the company that makes the popular brand of hand sanitizer, can’t protect against the coronavirus but has falsely claimed it could fight off COVID-19, which has most people in the United States and around the world homebound due to fear of more infections and related deaths. According to a report on Law360, several Germ-X buyers sued Vi-Jon Inc. alleging that the St. Louis-based company markets its hand sanitizer as a way to prevent the flu and other viruses even though there is no evidence to support that claim.
The consumers pointed to advertisements from Germ-X that the company explicitly states that the product counteracts the coronavirus or other viruses and implies the same message using wording, images and links. The lawsuit states quoting a recent letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that, in fact, there are no “adequate and well-controlled studies,” which support a representation that alcohol-based hand sanitizers produce a clinical reduction in infection or disease.
Alleged False Claims and Misrepresentations
The lawsuit also says consumers purchased thousands of units of these hand sanitizers based on the company’s alleged lies. It seeks as relief disgorgement of the profits, restitution to consumers, undetermined damages and attorney fees. The lawsuit, which seeks a class action status, was brought under California’s false advertising law, unfair competition law and the state’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act. It also alleges negligent and intentional misrepresentation.
The manufacturer of Purell, Gojo Industries, was hit last month with a similar lawsuit in New York federal court. In that case, consumers said the company marketed its Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizer product line as effective in reducing a variety of viral infections including norovirus, the flu and even Ebola.
The most recent lawsuit followed two other filed previously in California federal court and came just weeks after the FDA told Gojo in a letter that based on Purell’s claims, the products are “unapproved new drugs” under federal law. The suit filed last week says Germ-X and Purell are nearly identical products. So, the FDA’s warning letter chastising Purell for making misrepresentations to consumers applies equally to Germ-X, the lawsuit stated.
Protecting Consumers’ Rights
It is a well-established fact that hand sanitizers only somewhat protect us against pathogens. The best way to protect yourself against the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, as frequently as possible. It is unethical and unconscionable for corporations to take advantage of people’s fears to maximize profits. As class action lawyers in California who stand up and fight for consumers’ rights, we know that such lawsuits help bring out facts and hold unethical corporations accountable for misleading consumers.