Flushable wipes manufacturers taken to court

Thursday, 15 December, 2016

Flushable wipes manufacturers taken to court

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) this week instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against two major wipes manufacturers, alleging they each made false or misleading representations in relation to supposedly ‘flushable’ wipes marketed and supplied in Australia.

The companies in question — Kimberly-Clark Australia and Pental — produce Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths and White King Power Clean Flushable Toilet Wipes respectively. The ACCC alleges that, by labelling these products as ‘flushable’, consumers were led to believe that the products had similar characteristics to toilet paper, would break up or disintegrate in a time frame and manner similar to toilet paper, and were suitable to be flushed down the toilet.

“The ACCC alleges that the impression given by the representations which Kimberly-Clark and Pental each made about these products was that they were suitable to be flushed down household toilets in Australia, when this was not the case,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“These products did not, for example, disintegrate like toilet paper when flushed. Australian water authorities face significant problems when non-suitable products are flushed down the toilet as they contribute to blockages in household and municipal sewerage systems.”

It is alleged that Kimberly-Clark and Pental engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations, in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law. In both proceedings, the ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, injunctions, corrective notices, compliance program orders and costs.

Wipes removal at Shellharbour Sewage Pumping Station.

The move has been welcomed by Sydney Water, with senior media and PR advisor Peter Hadfield describing the court action as a “milestone”.

“Sydney Water has been a leader on this issue for the past 18 months through our ‘keep wipes out of the pipes’ education program and we have strongly advocated that only the three Ps should be flushed down the toilet — pee, poo and (toilet) paper.

“We will keenly observe the outcome of the ACCC’s announcement.”

Wipes washed up in a creek.

The Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) meanwhile used the court action to draw attention to a joint international statement, signed by over 300 water utilities and partner organisations, raising awareness of the issues associated with flushable-labelled products.

“The international statement … outlines that only the three Ps (poo, pee and toilet paper) should be flushed,” said WSAA Executive Director Adam Lovell.

“It also calls for clearer labelling and covers the key requirements for any future standard for ‘flushable’ products.”

Top image: Wipes removal at Rouse Hill.

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