According to the Wall Street Journal, on announcing the settlement, Merck denied all allegations of wrongdoing and liability, but said it wanted to settle to avoid "the burden, expense, risk and uncertainty" of continuing litigation.
Since the filing in a New Jersey district court last week, the cosmetic manufacturer has agreed to stop using the terms "sunblock," "waterproof," "sweatproof," "all day" or "all day protection" on the Coppertone sunscreen products manufactured after June on the US market.
The settlement means that Merck will have to pay as much as $1.50 for each eligible Coppertone sunscreen product bought from July 2006 and returned, which, the Wall Street Journal reckons could be an end result of anywhere between $3 million and $10 million dollars.
CosmeticsDesign.com USA attempted to contact a Merck Consumer Care representative on the matter but found they were unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
Merck inherited the Coppertone sunscreen line when it acquired rival Schering-Plough back in 2009. By 2003, several lawsuits were filed alleging that the effectiveness of the sunscreens in its advertising and labeling claims were exaggerated.
Three plaintiffs had argued 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.
“[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.”
Advertising regulator warning
In December of last year, 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.”
Merck’s response at the time 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.”