Friday, May 27, 2011
C.A. Rejects Consumer Suit Over Fiji Water Bottle
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A lawsuit charging a bottled water maker with deceptively promoting its product as environmentally sound, by adopting a green water drop as a marketing symbol, was properly dismissed, the First District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Div. Two said the action against the maker of Fiji water failed to state a cause of action because a reasonable consumer would not have been misled into believing that the drop represented an endorsement by an independent environmental group or a claim of environmental superiority.
The plaintiff, Anaya Hill, accused Fiji of “greenwashing”—making a fraudulent claim of environmental superiority for marketing purposes. The “Green Drop” found on the back of every bottle, Hill alleged, looks similar to symbols used by environmental organizations.
Hill claimed she began buying Fiji twice a week in 2008, spending about 15 percent more than she would have for a competing product, because she believed it to be “environmentally friendly and superior.”
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer sustained Fiji’s demurrer and dismissed the suit, concluding that the company did not, under all of the facts alleged, violate the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, the Unfair Competition Law, the False Advertising Law, or the common law of fraud and deceit.
Justice James Richman agreed with Kramer. Hill’s beliefs that the green water drop represented the company’s representation that its environmental practices were superior to those of its competitors, as well as an outside endorsement of the product’s ecological impacts, “do not satisfy the reasonable consumer standard,” the justice wrote.
He noted that the green drop “bears no name or recognized logo of any group, much less a third party organization, no trademark symbol, and no other indication that it is anything but a symbol of Fiji water.”
Richman also cited the “Green Guides” issued by the Federal Trade Commission, which he said make clear that merely touting a product’s environmental features does not constitute an unfair trade practice unless the representation would mislead a reasonable consumer.
He further noted that the drop appears on the bottle next to the web address “fijigreen.com,” which the jurist said further places reasonable consumers on notice that the green drop is Fiji’s symbol, not that of an ecological group.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company