Some Axe hair styling products have been found to be packaged in containers with ‘false bottoms’, giving the impression of a larger product than the packaging actually contains – a move which the OCDA claims violates consumer rights.
Although Unilever has admitted no liability, the final judgement has now fallen in the OCDA’s favour, and banked the government office a tidy settlement.
As a result of losing the consumer protection lawsuit, Unilever is now obliged to cough up $750,000 in civil penalties, and foot the bill of a further $27,900 in costs for the investigation.
As part of the ruling, the Axe brand also faces several key retail restrictions. It is now no longer permitted to retail products in oversized packaging, and is explicitly barred from the use of containers with false bottoms, sides, lids and coverings.
A common tale?
This isn’t the first time Unilever personal care products have grabbed attention for their purportedly deceptive packaging.
Late last year, a similar lawsuit was brought in New York, this time against the anti-perspirant and deodorant ranges Degree Dry Protection and Axe Gold Temptation.
The action, which is still ongoing, notes that the products’ packaging measures 5.75 inches X 2.75 inches, when the actual deodorant stick measures 2.5 inches x 3 inches, nearly 3 inches of slack-fill.
But it’s not just how the packaging is constructed that can be called up for criticism: what’s on the packaging matters too.
Last year, Unilever was under fire over in Europe for the use of a peace logo on its Lynx (the European name for Axe) products. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament group claimed that the use of its logo in the brand’s ‘Make Love Not War’ promotional materials was “a flagrant co-opting of decades of activism”.
Despite the fact that the image is not under copyright, Unilever responded with an undisclosed donation to the protest group as a gesture of goodwill.