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Pental penalised for ‘flushable’ wipes claims

The Federal Court has ordered Pental (Pental Limited and Pental Products) to pay penalties totalling $700,000, for false and misleading claims about its White King flushable toilet and bathroom cleaning wipes.

The proceedings follow a complaint made to the ACCC by the consumer advocate group, Choice. Pental’s packaging and promotional materials for its White King wipes included statements such as “flushable”, “Simply wipe over the hard surface of the toilet…and just flush away”, and “White King Toilet Wipes are made from a specially designed material, which will disintegrate in the sewage system when flushed, just like toilet paper”.

Pental admitted that it had represented its White King ‘flushable’ wipes were made from a specially designed material which disintegrated in the sewerage system like toilet paper, had similar characteristics to toilet paper when flushed, and were suitable to be flushed into the sewerage system when that was not the case.

In addition to ordering Pental to pay penalties, the court, by consent, made declarations that these representations were false or misleading in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law, and ordered Pental to implement a compliance program.

“The court’s decision shows that businesses face serious consequences if they make false or misleading statements about the nature of their products,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

“The ACCC took action against Pental due to concerns that consumers were being misled into believing that the wipes were suitable to be flushed. These White King wipes can’t be flushed down the toilet, and Australian wastewater authorities face significant problems if they are because they can cause blockages in household and municipal sewerage systems.”

The ACCC’s action related to White King Power Clean Flushable Toilet Wipes (40 pack) and White King Power Clean Flushable Toilet Wipes (100 pack), later renamed the White King Flushable Bathroom Power Wipes. They were advertised as ‘flushable’ between February 2011 and July 2016.

The ACCC has separate ongoing proceedings against Kimberly-Clark Australia concerning alleged false or misleading representations in relation to four ‘flushable’ personal hygiene wipes products that were marketed and supplied in Australia between May 2013 and May 2016.

Pental co-operated with the ACCC by making admissions and consenting to orders which included declarations, an injunction, the implementation of an ACL compliance training program, and payment towards the ACCC’s costs.

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