Watchdog takes court action on “flushable” wipes

wipes2The consumer watchdog has started Federal Court proceedings against consumer goods giant Kimberly-Clark and rival Pental alleging that they each made false or misleading representations in relation to ‘flushable’ wipes they marketed and supplied in Australia.

“The ACCC alleges that the impression given by the representations, which Kimberly-Clark and Pental each made about these products was that they were suitable to be flushed down household toilets in Australia, when this was not the case,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

“These products did not, for example, disintegrate like toilet paper when flushed. Australian water authorities face significant problems when non-suitable products are flushed down the toilet as they contribute to blockages in household and municipal sewerage systems.”

In May 2013 and May 2016, Kimberly-Clark variously advertised its personal hygiene wipes, Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths, as ‘flushable’, ‘completely flushable’, ‘able to be flushed in the toilet’ and able to ‘break down in sewerage system or septic tank’.

Consumer advocacy group CHOICE awarded Kleenex a Shonky Award for its ‘flushable’ wipes that do not disintegrate like toilet paper. Their tests found the wipes held together for 21 hours, while toilet paper dissolves in a few minutes.

Meanwhile for Pental, ACCC alleges that between February 2011 and August 2016, the company advertised its bathroom cleaning wipes, White King Power Clean Flushable Toilet Wipes (also called White King Flushable Bathroom Power Wipes) as a ‘flushable toilet wipe’ that disintegrated like toilet paper.

Pental’s packaging and promotional materials included statements such as ‘Simply wipe over the hard surface of the toilet … and just flush away’ and that its flushable wipes ‘are made from a specially designed material, which will disintegrate in the sewage system when flushed, just like toilet paper’.

In both proceedings, the ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, injunctions, corrective notices, compliance program orders and costs.

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