Misleading claims about flushable bathroom wipes results in $700k fine

The Federal Court has ordered Australian company Pental to pay $700k for misleading consumers about their ‘flushable’ White King bathroom wipes.

Marketing by the company suggested that the wipes were similar to toilet paper and “made from a specially designed material, which will disintegrate in the sewage system when flushed”.

Proceedings in the Federal Court were commenced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in December 2016, after a complaint by consumer advocate group Choice.

Choice spokesperson, Tom Godfrey, told the SMH in 2016 that "The 'flushable' claims were one of the greatest consumer cons going around. It was very clear these products shouldn't be flushed," he said.

"Consumers in Australia and around the world have been hoodwinked for years and it was all just a cynical ploy to get us to pay more."

Pental cooperated with the ACCC by admitting their claims were wrong.

In an interview with the ABC, ACCC commissioner Sarah Court welcomed the outcome and said businesses would face "serious consequences" for misleading consumers about their products.

"These White King wipes can't be flushed down the toilet, and Australian wastewater authorities face significant problems if they are [flushed] because they can cause blockages in household and municipal sewerage systems," she said.

According to SMH, Sydney Water is now calling on the rest of the wet-wipes manufacturing industry to include 'do not flush’ warnings on the packaging of bathroom products.

“The international water industry has collectively committed to a position statement that all wipes and personal hygiene products should be clearly marked 'do not flush' and be disposed of in the bin.

"This position statement is supported by over 300 utilities and non-government organisations from 23 countries,” Mr Vernon said.

"Sydney Water hopes this judgment reinforces our message to the community that wipes should not go down toilets and drains and we support any moves by manufacturers that help in this area.”

The case is an important reminder to only flush the “three Ps — pee, poo and paper.” Everything else should be disposed of properly in the bin.

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