ACCC appeals court decision on Kimberly-Clark wipes

Australia’s consumer authority has appealed the Federal Court’s decision last month on the flushability of Kimberly-Clark wipes.

In late June, Justice Jacqueline Gleeson dismissed the action taken by the ACCC which claimed that the FMCG giant mislead consumers in the advertising of its Kleenex Cottonelle ‘flushable’ wipes.

Gleeson found the “flushability” representation was not false, misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive.

The ACCC said it is appealing the decision as it believes the Court made an error in the case.

“We are appealing this decision because we believe the Court made an error in deciding whether it was misleading for Kimberly-Clark to represent that the Kleenex wipes were suitable to be flushed,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“We will argue on appeal that Kimberly-Clark’s flushable claims should have been found to be misleading because there was evidence of the risk of harm these wipes posed to the sewerage system, and that the trial judge was wrong to require evidence that these particular wipes had caused actual harm.”

The ACCC said it is aware of problems reported by Australian water authorities as a result of products such as wet wipes being flushed down the toilet and contributing to blockages.

Kimberly-Clark ANZ managing director, Doug Cunningham, said in a statement to Inside FMCG on Monday afternoon that the company is “disappointed” in the ACCC’s decision to appeal the Federal Court’s ruling.

“At Kimberly-Clark we take the truthfulness and accuracy of our claims and marketing seriously. Our Kleenex Flushable Wipes are safe to be flushed and we will continue to rigorously defend that position,” Cunningham said.

“As the Court noted, ‘despite the millions of flushable wipes sold in the relevant period, there was no evidence from any other consumer or plumber of a household system blockage attributed to our flushable wipes’.”

He said that Kimberly-Clark has always been committed to ensuring that its flushable wipe products meet or exceed international industry standards for flushability and will continue to educate consumers on what can and cannot be flushed.

Earlier this month the Federal Court found in favour of Woolworths in a similar case taken by the ACCC. The consumer watchdog claimed the supermarket misled consumers about the compostability of its ‘Select eco’ range of disposable plates, bowls and cutlery.

A date for the appeal hearing has yet to be set.

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