'A real win for our sewers': $700k fine for flushable wipes
THE maker of White King has been fined $700,000 for false and misleading claims about its "flushable" toilet and bathroom cleaning wet wipes.
The Federal Court ordered the penalties against cleaning product manufacturer Pental in a court action initiated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), following a referral by consumer group Choice in 2016.
In addition to marketing the wipes between 2011 and 2016 as "flushable", Pental's packaging and promotional materials included statements such as, "Simply wipe over the hard surface of the toilet and just flush away", and "White King toilet wipes are made from a specially designed material, which will disintegrate in the sewage system when flushed, just like toilet paper".
The company admitted this was not the case. "The court's decision shows that businesses face serious consequences if they make false or misleading statements about the nature of their products," ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said in a statement on Thursday.
"The ACCC took action against Pental due to concerns that consumers were being misled into believing that the wipes were suitable to be flushed.
"These White King wipes can't be flushed down the toilet, and Australian wastewater authorities face significant problems if they are because they can cause blockages in household and municipal sewerage systems."
A separate court action against Kimberly-Clark is ongoing.
"We think the ruling is a real win for our sewers," said Queensland Urban Utilities spokeswoman Michelle Cull.
"Wet wipes cause big problems in our sewer network and also people's household plumbing. We remove about 160 tonnes of wet wipes from our network every year. End to end, that's enough to stretch from Brisbane to Bali. We also spend a lot clearing blockages from our sewer pipes, about $1.5 million a year."
Ms Cull said despite public awareness campaigns by water authorities to only flush the "three Ps - pee, poo and paper", people weren't getting the message, largely due to the misleading packaging.
"I think the labelling is confusing for consumers because a lot of these products are labelled 'flushable', and although they will pass through the S-bend wet wipes don't disintegrate like toilet paper after they're flushed."
In 2016, news.com.au revealed Kimberly-Clark once banned staff from flushing its own "flushable" wet wipes down office toilets due to major issues the products caused to the company's sewerage system.
Pental has been contacted for comment.