On July 29, 2022, the Honorable Beth Labson Freeman of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued a redacted order granting Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification in California, New York, and Massachusetts in this false advertising consumer protection class action lawsuit against Reckitt Benckiser LLC (Reckitt).

Plaintiffs bring this class action on behalf of consumers who purchased Woolite laundry detergent labeled with the phrases “COLOR RENEW” and/or “revives colors.” Plaintiffs assert that these representations were false or misleading, because Woolite laundry detergent does not renew or revive color in clothing.

Case Background

In 2017, Reckitt launched a new marketing campaign for its Woolite brand laundry detergents. Reckitt changed the formula of its Woolite Gentle Cycle detergent and Woolite Darks detergent, and it began marketing those products by representing that the reformulated detergent would “renew” and “revive” color in clothing.

On 100% of those detergent bottles, the back label displayed the phrase “revives colors” as part of a prominent graphic showing that the reformulated detergent “smooths rough fibers” and “removes pilling and fuzz” with the end result that it “revives colors.” On approximately 57% of the bottles, the back label also displayed the phrase “HOW COLOR RENEW WORKS” inside a rainbow-colored hexagon.  Finally, on approximately 55% of the bottles, the front label displayed the phrase “COLOR RENEW” inside a rainbow-colored hexagon. See id.

In conjunction with the new marketing campaign, Reckitt implemented a significant increase in its wholesale prices for all sizes of Woolite Gentle Cycle detergent and Woolite Darks detergent, among other detergents.

A competitor in the detergent market, Procter & Gamble, initiated a challenge to Reckitt’s advertising with the National Advertising Division (“NAD”) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Among other things, Procter & Gamble asserted that Reckitt’s claim that Woolite detergent “revives color” is misleading because Woolite detergent does not add color back to fabrics. In August 2019, the NAD issued a decision recommending that Reckitt discontinue its claim that Woolite detergent “revives color.” Reckitt voluntarily agreed to discontinue the “revives color” claim. Reckitt stopped distributing Woolite bottles with the allegedly misleading labels in April 2021.

Plaintiffs, who are residents of California, New York and Massachusetts, bring these claims under California, New York and Massachusetts unfair and deceptive business practice laws.

Plaintiffs seek to hold Reckitt Benckiser accountable for its ongoing false advertising and misrepresentations. Plaintiffs also seek monetary compensation, since class members paid a price premium due to Reckitt’s misrepresentations.

Case name: Prescott, et al. v. Reckitt Benckiser LLC, Case No. 5:20-cv-02101-BLF (N.D. Cal)