BBB National Programs Archive
NAD Recommends Better Life Discontinue Challenged Claims for All-Purpose Cleaner Following S.C. Johnson Challenge
New York, NY – June 26, 2017 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Better Life, the maker of cleaning products promoted as “natural,” discontinue advertising claims challenged by S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., a maker of cleaning products, including Windex products.
NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
SCJ challenged express claims that included:
- “Did you know that any cleaning product with a disinfecting claim is classified as a pesticide by the EPA? These chemicals pose a serious risk to us, our children and pets every time we use them!”
- Dyes – “Have been linked to cancer.”
- Alcohol – “Respiratory and skin irritant.”
- Synthetic Fragrance – “Toxic.”
- Sulfates – “May contain 1,4-Dioxane, a possible carcinogen.”
- Ethoxylates – “Linked to cancer and sterility.”
NAD also considered whether the advertising at issue implied that:
- Other cleaning products are dangerous, unsafe and unhealthy to use and/or highly toxic to living things.
- Cleaning products with formulas that contain the ingredients listed in the chart are dangerous, unhealthy and unsafe for use.
- Products that use synthetic ingredients are dangerous, unhealthy and unsafe – no matter the formulation or quantity.
- Products that disinfect are dangerous, unhealthy and unsafe for use.
NAD noted in its decision that the issue in SCJ’s challenge wasn’t the efficacy of the advertiser’s products, but whether the advertiser made unsupported or overly broad claims about the potential health and safety hazards relating to the use of competing products.
The challenged advertising, found at the advertiser’s website, included a video that featured a time-lapse demonstration of Gerbera daisies in five different bottles of all-purpose cleaner and a comparative chart and express claims regarding disinfectant cleaning products.
The challenger contended the claims at issue are falsely disparaging, unsupported and misleading. Better Life argued that its advertising claims are truthful and accurate, and that they provide useful information to consumers.
Better Life’s time-lapse video show one Gerbera daisy in a bottle of Better Life all-purpose cleaner and four other daisies in competing products, including Windex Multi-Surface Anti-Bacterial. Over 24 hours, all of the daisies – except for the one in the Better Life bottle – wilt.
NAD noted in its decision that, in support of the claim that its cleaning product is less harmful to simple living things like flowers than other products, Better Life pointed to the fact that its product is the only one out of the five that does not “kill” the flower. NAD was not persuaded that the demonstration was sufficiently reliable evidence of a difference in toxicity between the products when used by consumers as directed. With regard to the reliability of the methodology, a disclosure at the end of the video expressly states that “this is not a scientific experiment,” and the advertiser did not present any additional information about the manner in which the testing was conducted. Further, Better Life did not provide NAD with any underlying evidence regarding the mechanism of action which would cause such a disparity in results. NAD found that the video conveyed the unsupported messages that Better Life’s cleaner is less biologically harmful to living things like a flower due to its “natural” ingredients, and that Windex and other cleaning products with synthetic ingredients are less safe and more “toxic” to humans than Better Life’s “natural” product. NAD recommended that Better Life discontinue the video.
NAD further recommended that Better Life discontinue its use of the comparative ingredient chart or modify the chart to avoid communicating the unsupported message that competing products contain harmful, unhealthy, or dangerous ingredients.
NAD also recommended that Better Life discontinue its characterization of disinfectants as “killing agents,” as well as the statement “Did you know that any cleaning product with a disinfecting claim is classified as a pesticide by the EPA? These chemicals pose a serious risk to us, our children and pets every time we use them.”
Better Life, in its advertiser’s statement, said it would comply with NAD’s recommendations.
Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.