Merck in the courts over misleading sunscreen advertising claims

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Merck consumer care Ultraviolet Sunscreen

Merck in the courts over misleading sunscreen advertising claims
Merck Consumer Care is allegedly being sued in a class-action consumer fraud lawsuit that claims its advertisements for Coppertone sunscreen are deceptive in promoting the degree of sun protection the product offers.

Three plaintiffs are arguing that they were misled by promises of “full defense​” against the sun’s ultraviolet rays and that ultimately, Coppertone's sunscreen products fail to protect against the cancer causing longer rays of ultraviolet-A radiation.

According to the complaint; “[The] defendants have deceptively labeled, advertised, marketed and otherwise represented that many of their sunscreen products are ‘sun block’ lotions when, as defendants knew or should have known, such products did not block all or anywhere close to all of the sun’s harmful rays, particularly UVA rays​.” USA attempted to contact a Merck Consumer Care representative on the matter but found they were unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Advertising regulator issued warning as far back as December

Back in December, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus Claims (NAD) suggested that Merck drop certain advertising claims on the Coppertone sunscreen, stating that the evidence didn’t back up the claims.

Then, the US watchdog recommended that the company stop claiming that the product, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, “protects across 100 percent of the UVA UVB spectrum.”

NAD did however determine that Merck’s evidence supported the claim that the sunscreens with a SPF of 15 or higher offer some skin protection for all wavelengths across the entire UVA UVB spectrum, but highlighted that evidence in the records did not support the claim that the products provide 100 percent protection across the spectrum.

Merck’s response was that while it “disagrees with the NAD's view about other conveyed messages, we will take its view into consideration in our advertising going forward.”

To which NAD acknowleged; “​[We] appreciated that the advertiser’s intended message was the breadth of its sunscreens’ coverage rather than the completeness of the protection. However, regardless of intent, advertisers are responsible for all the reasonable messages conveyed by their advertising."











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