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Canadian Distributor of Nivea Cosmetics Ordered to Reimburse Customers for Misleading Claims

February 13, 2012

In September 2011, the Competition Bureau reached a settlement agreement with Beiersdorf Canada Inc., Nivea's Canadian distributor, concerning claims made in connection with its MY SILHOUETTE product. The claims were made on packaging as well as on Nivea’s website. The company claimed that regular use of its product could lead to a "reduction of up to 3 centimetres on targeted body parts, such as thighs, hips, waist and stomach"; contains a “highly effective natural Bio-Slim Complex for a slimer looking and more defined silhouette”, and has the dual effect of “slimming and reshaping” the body. The Competition Bureau found the claims to be misleading as they did not have “adequate and proper” testing to substantiate the claims.  

Under the settlement agreement, which is registered with the Competition Tribunal, Beiersdorf must (a) remove the products from Canadian shelves; (b) pay an administrative monetary penalty of $300,000; (c) pay the Competition Bureau $80,000 for its costs and disbursements incurred during the investigation; (d) refund Canadian purchasers the purchase price and any shipping and handling costs; and (e) publish a corrective notice on its website and in major Canadian newspapers.

The Canadian agreement followed on the heels of a similar agreement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Under the terms of that Order, the company agreed to pay $900,000 and it is prohibited from claiming that any product applied to the skin causes substantial weight or fat loss or a substantial reduction in body size; and that any drug, dietary supplement, or cosmetic causes weight or fat loss or a reduction in body size, unless the claim is backed by two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical studies.

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Author(s):

Jennifer McKenzie Jennifer McKenzie
B.A. (Hons.), LL.B.
Partner
416.957.1628  email Jennifer McKenzie