Conopco, Inc. / Unilever Home & Personal Care USA named in class action over sale of the Suave® Professionals Keratin Infusion 30 Day Smoothing Kit

Unilever

Plaintiffs bring this class action to seek redress for themselves and all others nationwide, other than residents of the states of Illinois, Alabama, Kentucky, Nevada or Wisconsin who purchased the Suave® Professionals Keratin Infusion 30 Day Smoothing Kit (the “Treatment” or “Product”) from the date in 2011 that the Treatment was made available to consumers through the present.

Plaintiffs purchased the Treatment because of Unilever’s uniform false representation that it would smooth their hair and coat it with Keratin, a protein found naturally in hair. According to the complaint, Unilever knew, but failed to disclose to Plaintiffs and the class, that the Treatment contains an ingredient or combination of ingredients that causes significant hair loss upon proper application.

The active ingredient in the Treatment, Thioglycolic Acid, including its salts and esters, is the same active ingredient that is used in hair depilatories and some hair perming solutions. Based on testing conducted by Plaintiffs, and as evidenced by damage caused to Plaintiffs and the putative class members, the pH level and concentration of Thioglycolic Acid marketing, sale and delivery of the Treatment, and its belated and incomplete “recall” of this hazardous Product, violate various consumer protection laws..

As alleged, Unilever labeled, advertised, promoted and sold the Treatment targeting women who wanted smooth, shiny, manageable hair with no frizz. Through an extensive marketing campaign and via its website and packaging, Unilever made a number of express warranties: that the Treatment was a Keratin-based smoothing treatment and not a toxic chemical relaxer; that its effects would last no longer than 30 days; that it contained no Formaldehyde; and that it was safe.

According to the complaint, these warranties and representations are false in the Treatment rendered it dangerous and unsafe for sale as an over-the-counter hair Defendants failed to properly warn consumers of the risks and dangers attendant to the use of such a strong depilatory agent on their hair and scalp — even well after Defendants knew or should have known of its hazards.

Sometime in May 2012, Unilever decided to “recall” the Treatment, misleadingly characterizing it as a decision to “discontinue” selling the Product. Defendants’ uniform acts and omissions in connection with the development “smoothing” product.

In addition, Unilever falsely claimed that the Treatment contained “No Formaldehyde,” in all capital letters on the box cover, when in fact the Treatment contains a chemical ingredient that is known to release Formaldehyde upon its use or application.

In order to create an impression of the Product as a gentle, natural Keratin-based hair “smoothing” treatment, Unilever falsely promoted the Product’s effects as lasting no longer than 30 days. Unlike chemical hair straighteners, whose effects are expected to last for many months, the purportedly positive attributes to be provided by the Treatment were touted as short term.

Nowhere on the package labeling or on Unilever’s websites or other marketing materials did Unilever warn Plaintiffs and members of the class that they were at risk of significant hair loss and/or scalp burns upon proper application of the Treatment? Unilever misled and deceived the public, and placed their customers in harm’s way, all for the sake of increased profits.

Unilever failed to warn Plaintiffs and members of the class of the risks, even though it knew, before or almost immediately upon introduction of the Product in late 2011, that consumers were complaining that the Treatment caused significant hair loss and scalp burns (among other adverse effects, such as hair discoloration).

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