Colgate rebuts white teeth ‘lie’ claims

Colgate-Palmolive will defend allegations it is misleading customers about its new whitening toothpaste’s ability to “take years off” their smiles, a court has been told.

Personal care rival Procter and Gamble, the makers of Oral B, say there is no reliable scientific data to support the claim Colgate’s Optic White Renewal toothpaste can remove yellow stains that have accumulated over the last 10 years.

“There will be a denial of any misleading conduct,” Tony Bannon SC, acting for Colgate-Palmolive, told the Federal Court on Wednesday.

Colgate would dispute the way P&G had interpreted the claims and whether any of the alleged misrepresentations were made out, he said.

Even if P&G had “wild success and the court bends over backwards” there was no suggestion the product was not safe to use, Bannon said.

“There is no suggestion it is overpriced or is not value for money,” he said.

P&G says the bleaching agent rapidly decomposes when in contact with salvia and thus the toothpaste could not work as advertised.

“Because it is a toothpaste, it has very little contact time on the teeth,” Julian Cooke, for P&G, said.

P&G wants independent experts to give evidence at trial and any judgment delivered before December, when retailers decide what products to stock the following year.

“(Retailers) will drop the bottom third-performing products,” Cooke said.

“With the success of the (Colgate) product to date, if it’s permitted to continue through December, then that’s going to translate to my client and other retailers losing some of their stock for next year.”

P&G said data from Woolworths, where an 85g tube retails for $15, showed shoppers buying the Colgate product had previously bought Oral B toothpaste or other brands.

But Colgate said the data did not show why people bought its product.

“They may move from week to week based on price, specials or who is doing the shopping,” Bannon said.

The matter returns to court on Monday.

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