ACCC appeals 'flushable' wipes decision

29 July 2019

The ACCC has appealed the Federal Court’s decision to dismiss part of the ACCC’s case against Kimberly-Clark which relates to claims it made to consumers about its Kleenex Cottonelle ‘flushable’ wipes.

The ACCC had alleged that in representing its products as ‘flushable’ on product packaging and its website, Kimberly-Clark had misled consumers about the suitability of its wipes to be flushed down the toilet.

In June 2019, the Court found that Kimberly-Clark’s ‘flushable’ claims were not false or misleading. 

“We are appealing this decision because we believe the Court made an error in deciding whether it was misleading for Kimberly-Clark to represent that the Kleenex wipes were suitable to be flushed,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“We will argue on appeal that Kimberly-Clark’s flushable claims should have been found to be misleading because there was evidence of the risk of harm these wipes posed to the sewerage system, and that the trial judge was wrong to require evidence that these particular wipes had caused actual harm.”

“The ACCC will also argue that the Court made an error by rejecting the ACCC’s case that Kimberly-Clark had claimed the Kleenex Wipes would break up quickly like toilet paper when flushed,” Mr Sims said.

“The ACCC is aware of problems continuing to be reported by Australian water authorities as a result of non-suitable products, such as wet wipes, being flushed down the toilet and contributing to blockages and other operational issues.”

A hearing for the appeal before the Full Federal Court will be set at a later date.

Background:

The ACCC first took action against Kimberly-Clark in December 2016.

The following Kimberly-Clark products were the subject of these proceedings:

  • Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths - Sensitive, 42 wipes pack;
  • Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths - Sensitive (Out & About), 3x10 wipes packs;
  • Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths - Cotton Fresh, 42 wipes pack; and
  • Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths - Kids, 42 wipes pack

The products which are the subject of this case have since been discontinued, and replaced with a different range of ‘flushable’ wipes.

In the judgment delivered in June 2019, the Court also found that Kimberly-Clark had misled consumers when it claimed its Kleenex Cottonelle ‘flushable’ wipes were made in Australia, when they were in fact variously made in Germany, South Korea and the UK.

Release number: 
126/19
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