Procter & Gamble Settles With California Over Allegedly Misleading Moisturizer Boxes

Image courtesy of How big is this jar?

How big is this jar?

How big is this jar?

When an item is costly by the ounce and comes in very small containers, how can you make the product seem more substantial while also making it harder to steal? Many companies that make expensive things to smear on your face solve this problem by adding a false bottom to jars. Procter & Gamble’s Olay brand was accused of doing this by four California counties, and has agreed to settle the lawsuit by changing the product’s packaging and paying a civil penalty.

California, it turns out, does not mess around when it comes to protecting consumers from deceptively large packaging. You might remember a similar settlement with pharmacy chain CVS last year regarding the plumped-up packaging of their facial moisturizers.

This investigation began back in 2012, when investigators in four counties discovered that for some moisturizers, the size of a product’s box depended not on the actual size of the container, but on the price per ounce. The Wall Street Journal cites one example: a 1.7-ounce jar of Regenerist Luminous that comes in a box twice as large as a 2-ounce jar of the brand’s Active Hydrating moisturizer. The main difference between these products is that the Regenerist Luminous costs more than three times as much per ounce.

Of course, slack fill in beauty products is nothing new. One of our readers sawed open a Noxzema jar to reveal the false bottom that Unilever concealed inside. There’s a smaller spice-maker suing McCormick over containers of pepper that contain less product but have stayed the same size.

A company spokesperson explained to the WSJ that the company didn’t misrepresent the sizes of their moisturizers on purpose. “There was never any intention to misrepresent the size of our products,” a representative said, and the company will change the packaging for relevant products as well as paying that $850,000 civil penalty.

P&G Settles Suit on Puffed-Up Packaging [Wall Street Journal]