Johnson & Johnson faces a class action lawsuit alleging certain Aveeno “stress relief” products don’t live up to their claims. The lead plaintiff claims that Aveeno Stress Relief Moisturizing Lotion and Aveeno Stress Relief Body Wash are deceptively marketed. In addition to claiming the products provide stress relief, Johnson & Johnson reportedly include references to so-called clinical studies touting the relaxing effects of lavender, chamomile, and ylang ylang. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this with Scott Hardy from Top Class Actions.

Transcript:

*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Farron Cousins:                  Stress relief aroma therapy products are a more than $1 billion a year industry. Everybody who is stressed wants to come up with ways or find a way or find a product that is going to help them reduce that stress. Johnson and Johnson, who is facing a lot of legal problems at the moment, has been marketing for many years their Aveeno lotion as being a stress relief lotion as well as a couple other of their products. But according to a new class action, these products do nothing whatsoever to actually help consumers relieve their stress.

Joining me now to talk about this is Scott Hardy from Top Class Actions. Scott, stress relief is a huge industry. It is a huge moneymaker because anybody who’s ever felt stressed would love to come up with a way to reduce their stress. Whether it’s a lotion, whether it’s something you put into the shower. If it works, hey, we will absolutely do it. But, these Aveeno products according to consumers in this lawsuit, doesn’t seem to be doing it for them.

Scott Hardy:                          Sure doesn’t. With the old aroma therapy boom and the essential oils boom, of course big companies are going to hop on this and try to put out there this information that, oh well this isn’t just a lavender soap. No, no, no. This is a stress relieving lavender soap and that will make you just whittle away magically all your stress. It’s not so much that just taking a nice hot bath will alleviate the stress by itself. No, it’s the lavender scent itself that wipes away the stress and so this class action is essentially saying, guys, come on, you can’t put out there that using this soap is going to alleviate your stress.

Where are the clinical studies? Where is the science behind this? We need to see this. You can’t just go onto the essential oil boom and have people that believe that. Buy your product thinking it’s going to alleviate the stress if there’s no science behind it. And the class action specifically states that there is a dearth of studies out there supporting their claims, that this alleviates stress, so therefore they’re getting nailed with it.

Farron Cousins:                  You know, to me that, that’s what I love so much about this issue is it’s not just, hey, you didn’t relieve my stress. I’m still an angry person, so I want my money back. It is 100% hey, you’re making a scientific claim that this can effectively alter a human beings mood or emotions. That, that’s a scientific claim. So where’s the science? Where’s your studies on this? Where is your team of stress relief researchers and what can they tell us?

And Johnson and Johnson obviously has to be like, well, that the team doesn’t exist. You know, maybe we don’t have scientific people studying this. Maybe there’s not a team of scientists working round the clock who are probably pretty stressed themselves. It just doesn’t exist. And if you’re going to make a scientific claim, it shouldn’t be that hard to back it up with the actual science.

Johnson and Johnson’s been known to play a little fast and loose with the science and so here it is another product that they’re getting popped for. You know, this one’s a little more innocuous I guess than some of the other lawsuits that Johnson and Johnson is currently facing. That they continuously lose as well by the way. But that does help to let you know just what kind of a company it is you’re dealing with here. You know, you always have to look for that pattern of behavior and we clearly see it with Johnson and Johnson.

Scott Hardy:                          Well and you’ve got the Johnson and Johnson lavender stress relief body lotion and the Johnson and Johnson. I’m sorry, the, the, this is the Aveeno stress relief moisturizing lotion and the Aveeno stress relief body wash. These are what these, the, these two products are what the class actions are targeting. But what people just have to remember is that if you take a bath with soap, you’re going to feel better and if you take a couple extra minutes and use that moisturizer afterwards.

Oh man, the stress is going to bleed right off you. You can’t charge extra, Johnson and Johnson, you can’t charge extra saying something is magically stress relief. Well, when that same product you sell right next to it that doesn’t have the stress relief label will probably generate the same reaction from your customers. And if you do want to sell it as stress relief, you better darn tootin have some clinical studies that support those claims.

Farron Cousins:                  And what’s interesting, as you’ve pointed out, like the act of taking a bath of soaking in a warm tub that has been proven, I mean that act alone can help alleviate stress. It relieves muscle tension, you know, yes, that alone works. You don’t necessarily need this Aveeno body wash to do that. Same thing with just the simple act of putting on lotion. It is a calming activity. You know, something that is almost monotonous enough to let your mind relax a little bit. So just the act of putting on any lotion can also help reduce stress for a few brief moments.

What Johnson and Johnson could have done instead of claiming this is a stress relief lotion is market it as your regular lotion, your regular body wash, but then maybe say, hey, may help reduce stress. That’s all you to do. That’s all you had to do, but as we’ve seen too often, the company gets greedy. They see this big cash cow out there of aroma therapy and they want to jump on it. They want to get a piece of it and they did get a piece of it, but now they’re also getting a pretty decent class action against them too.

Scott Hardy:                          Exactly. You’re going to get, they’re going to rake in their millions of dollars from selling these stress relief, stress relief products and then they get hit with a class action. And they say, well, you know, I’m just making up numbers here, but well we sold $15 million worth of products, oops, let’s go ahead and refund $2, $3 million back to the consumers. They still win and the consumers get paid, but that’s the way it goes. That’s why the class actions are popping out.

They’re to at least make sure that the consumers get something back in their pocket and then you will see a labeling change on these products if they stay on the market. Which makes it a bit more clear, like you said, it may just, as you said Farron, it might just go ahead and add that little word may help alleviate stress and they should be good to go. We’ll see.

Farron Cousins:                  Well, you know, and, and that’s what I hope people take away from these segments you and I do together. It’s not just about getting money from corporations, it’s about changing the behavior, changing the marketing methods, changing the way that these corporations act and treat consumers. That’s the biggest part of it and that’s what these lawsuits are aiming to change.

And if anybody needs more information about this particular class action, follow the link in the description of this video, head to Top Class Actions, and while you’re there, sign up for their weekly newsletter and arm yourself with all of the knowledge consumers need to know. Scott Hardy, Top Class Actions. Always a pleasure talking to you.

Scott Hardy:                          Great talking to you too Farron. Thank you.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com. He is the co-host / guest host for Ring of Fire Radio. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced