A New Jersey consumer is taking Bayer Healthcare and Merck to task over allegations the companies purposely mislabeled certain sunscreens as having a higher SPF then they actually do.

Plaintiff Andrew Roseman originally filed this putative false advertising class action lawsuit in New Jersey superior court claiming that when he purchased Coppertone Sport High Performance SPF 30 sunscreen spray and lotion on numerous occasions, he believed he was getting a true higher SPF protection.  However, Roseman contends he was duped by the purported mislabeling of the sunscreen, noting that scientific testing shows the Coppertone sunscreen does not provide an SPF of 30. The case was transferred to federal court in mid-December.

SPF – which stands for Sun Protection Factor – informs the consumer of the level of sunburn protection provided by the sunscreen. A sunscreen with a higher SPF, such as SPF 30, filters out more UV radiation and provides more protection compared to a sunscreen with a lower SPF. Essentially, an SPF of 30 will allow a person to stay in the sun 30 times longer without burning that if the person was wearing no protection at all. The SPF of a sunscreen is required to be clearly stated on the sunscreen’s label.

According to the Coppertone Sunscreen false advertising class action lawsuit, at least two scientific tests indicate the sunscreen does not provide an SPF of 30. The complaint notes testing conducted by Consumer Reports and reported in July of 2017 revealed that Coppertone Sport High Performance SPF 30 sunscreen spray had an actual SPF below 50 percent of what was on the product’s label. As a result, Consumer Reports gave the sunscreen a “poor” rating.

Additionally, Roseman conducted his own independent testing of Coppertone Sport High Performance SPF 30 sunscreen spray and lotion, sending samples of the product to a New Jersey clinical research lab. The results reportedly show that the sunscreen spray contained an average SPF of only 13.9 while the sunscreen lotion contained an average SPF of only 14.8, both significantly lower that what the label clearly states.

Despite these results, Bayer and Merck continued to label their Coppertone Sport High Performance sunscreen spray and lotion as having an SPF of 30. This, Roseman contends, is purely to “induce a false belief in consumers that they were a purchasing a product which provided a high level of SPF”, essentially charging a premium for the sunscreen and putting profits over truth in advertising.

This isn’t the first time Coppertone sunscreen products have been under fire for false advertising and mislabeling. In 2012, Merck settled a nationwide consumer class action lawsuit over allegations it made false claims about the benefits of Coppertone sunscreen, agreeing to shell out between $3 and $10 million. In 2014, another class action lawsuit targeted Coppertone sunscreen products with an SPF of 55 to 100+, claiming the sunscreens were deceptively marketed since the ingredients were nearly identical to Coppertone SPF 50 products, thereby cheating consumers.

Roseman is bringing this action on behalf of New Jersey consumers who purchased Coppertone Sport High Performance SPF 30 sunscreen spray or lotion in New Jersey from November 2, 2011 to the present.  The Coppertone Sunscreen false advertising class action lawsuit is seeking an order for injunctive and declaratory relief for damages suffered by each class member as a result of the alleged SPF mislabeling.

Roseman and the proposed class are represented by Stephen P. DeNittis, Joseph Osefchen, and Shane T. Prince of DeNittis Osefchen Prince PC; Janine Lee Pollack, Theodore B. Bell, and Carl V. Malmstrom of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP.

The Coppertone Sunscreen False Advertising Class Action Lawsuit is Roseman, et al. v. Bayer Healthcare LLC and Merck & Co., Inc., Case No. 1:17-cv-13308, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.


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