ACCC takes legal action against misleading “flushable wipes” claims

Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths
Image credit: ACCC / Kleenex

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has initiated legal proceedings against two separate companies for making “false or misleading” representations in relation to “flushable” wipes they marketed and supplied in Australia.

Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths
Image credit: ACCC / Kleenex

The two companies in question are Kimberly-Clark Australia and Pental Limited and Pental Products (Pental), which the consumer watchdog alleges have misled consumers to believe that their products had similar characteristics to toilet paper and therefore would break up or disintegrate when flushed down the toilet.

“The ACCC alleges that the impression given by the representations which Kimberly-Clark and Pental each made about these products was that they were suitable to be flushed down household toilets in Australia, when this was not the case,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“These products did not, for example, disintegrate like toilet paper when flushed. Australian water authorities face significant problems when non-suitable products are flushed down the toilet as they contribute to blockages in household and municipal sewerage systems.”

According to ACCC, between May 2013 and May 2016, Kimberly-Clark allegedly advertised its personal hygiene wipes, Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths, as “flushable”, “completely flushable”, “able to be flushed in the toilet”, and able to “break down in sewerage system or septic tank”.

The company also stated on its FAQ website for flushable wipes for Kids that they would “break up in the sewerage or septic system like toilet paper”, and that they were made in Australia, which was not the case.

In its legal action against Pental, the ACCC alleges that the company marketed its bathroom cleaning wipes, White King Power Clean Flushable Toilet Wipes, as a “flushable toilet wipe” that disintegrate like toilet paper.

According to the consumer watchdog, Pental’s packaging and promotional materials also features statements such as “Simply wipe over the hard surface of the toilet…and just flush away”, and that its flushable wipes “are made from a specially designed material which will disintegrate in the sewage system when flushed, just like toilet paper”.

Mr Sims said that by making these representations, Kimberly-Clark and Pental engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations, in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.

He said the ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, injunctions, corrective notices, compliance program orders and costs in proceedings.