National Advertising Division Finds Certain Claims for Green Gobbler Drain Clog Dissolver Supported; Recommends Advertiser Modify or Discontinue Others
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New York, NY – February 10, 2022 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined PurposeBuilt Brands provided a reasonable basis for certain advertising claims for its Green Gobbler Drain Clog Dissolver but recommended that other challenged claims be modified or discontinued. The claims were challenged by S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., a manufacturer of competing pour-in drain opening products.
NAD determined that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for claims that Green Gobbler Dissolver is an effective drain opener and that it works on “tough” clogs. However, NAD determined that the evidence in the record did not support the advertiser’s claims that its dissolver works quickly. Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claims:
- “Fast-acting hair clog remover”
- “WORKS WITHIN MINUTES: Unclog drains . . . within minutes!”
- “Tackles Stubborn Clogs Fast!”
NAD concluded that the advertiser has sufficient evidence to support the following claims regarding Green Gobbler Dissolver’s ability to sink through water, ostensibly to reach a drain clog:
- “Sinks Through Standing Water”
- “Dense Formula Sinks Through Water”
- “Heavier than water, so it sinks”
NAD determined that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for claims that Green Gobbler Dissolver liquifies hair and other organic material and noted that, while the evidence and arguments do not directly address soap, it is well accepted that soap generally dissolves in water. NAD also found that the advertiser’s claim that its product “dissolves” or “liquifies” paper has a reasonable basis. However, NAD cautioned the advertiser to avoid making the claim in a manner that conveys that the product can dissolve paper towels or other sturdier forms of paper that it was not shown to be efficacious at dissolving. Further, NAD questioned certain elements of the advertiser’s testing and recommended that it discontinue its claim that Green Gobbler Dissolver “dissolves” or “liquifies” grease and oil.
NAD determined that the advertiser did not provide a reasonable basis for the following claims related to how the physical properties of Green Gobbler Dissolver help it to be effective and recommended that they be discontinued:
- “Sticks to pipe walls”
- “Clings to pipes to keep them working”
- “Maintains free-flowing pipes & drains”
However, NAD found that the advertiser’s testing established that Green Gobbler Dissolver exhibits a certain amount of viscosity such that there is a reasonable basis for its claim that the product is “thick” and has a “high-density formula.”
NAD determined that the advertiser’s confidentially submitted materials about the formulation of Green Gobbler Dissolver and the description of its chemistry in its expert submissions amounted to a reasonable basis for its assertion that the product “does not contain sodium hydroxide.”
Environmental and Safety Claims
NAD also determined that the evidence in the record does not amount to a reasonable basis for the claim that Green Gobbler Dissolver has “no harsh chemicals” and recommended that it be discontinued.
During the proceeding, the advertiser modified its “safe formulation” and “non-corrosive” claims to limit the message to pipes and avoid conveying a broader safety message. NAD concluded that the advertiser’s testing amounts to a reasonable basis for these modified pipe safety claims.
NAD found that while the listed active ingredients in Green Gobbler Dissolver may be safer along certain metrics than ingredients in traditional drain openers, the evidence presented does not reliably support a broad, comparative safety message that the product itself is “safer” than the ingredients in competing products. Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its use of the term “safer” or modify the claim to indicate the relative safety of certain ingredients for specific metrics.
NAD also cautioned the advertiser to avoid:
- Conveying unsubstantiated broader product safety claims.
- Presenting claims regarding the absence of sodium hydroxide in its product in a manner that conveys the implied message that its product is “safer.”
NAD determined that the evidence in the record supports the advertiser’s “biodegradable” claim, which was modified to ensure that “biodegradable” references the product contents and not the package.
NAD found that the claim “Finally . . . POWER meets Green” reasonably conveys a general environmental benefit message that Green Gobbler Dissolver has achieved the unlikely combination of a drain opener that is both sufficiently powerful to unclog drains and “green,” that is, broadly environmentally friendly. Because the evidence in the record does not support such broad environmental benefit messages, NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued.
Remaining Challenged Claims
NAD found that in the context of the challenged advertising, the advertiser’s “revolutionary” and “breakthrough” claims reasonably convey a message that Green Gobbler Dissolver provides some new, advanced method of drain unclogging that is “safer” and “more effective” than other drain openers with sodium hydroxide – a message that is not supported. Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify its “revolutionary” and “breakthrough” claims to avoid conveying the message to consumers that its product innovations provide unsupported benefits.
NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue its use of “new” to refer to its dual chambered bottle and, in the future, use the claim “new” to refer to products and innovations that are introduced to the market within the past six months.
NAD found that the advertiser’s guarantee claim, “Guaranteed! Or its free*,” which was modified during the proceeding, conveys a limited, supported message about the advertiser’s money-back guarantee policy. However, NAD noted that the claim “GUARANTEED TO WORK” (the original version of the claim, which was still prominently used at the time of the proceeding) constitutes an affirmative performance claim that is not supported by the evidence and recommended that the advertiser discontinue this version of the claim.
NAD further recommended that the advertiser discontinue the comparative “easier” and “easiest” claim and noted that the advertiser can make claims about the ease of use of its pre-chambered packaging (as opposed to the ease of clearing clogs), provided, however, that its claims are presented in a non-comparative context.
During the proceeding, the advertiser stated that it would permanently discontinue and permanently modify several challenged claims for business reasons. The following claims were permanently discontinued:
- “Dissolves fats, sludge, and lint;”
- “Works on contact;”
- “Superior performance;”
- “Most effective;”
- “More effective;”
- “ultra” in the context of “ultra-thick;”
- “no toxic fumes;”
- “Environmentally friendly formula;”
- “Eco-clean unique formula;”
- “Non-irritating to skin;”
- “Powerful enough to plow through any clog;” and
- “New!” in the context of its packaging design and application.
NAD did not review the permanently discontinued or pre-modification claims on the merits.
In its advertiser statement, PurposeBuilt Brands stated that it “will comply with NAD’s recommendations in its future advertising.”
About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs is where businesses turn to enhance consumer trust and consumers are heard. The non-profit organization creates a fairer playing field for businesses and a better experience for consumers through the development and delivery of effective third-party accountability and dispute resolution programs. Embracing its role as an independent organization since the restructuring of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in June 2019, BBB National Programs today oversees more than a dozen leading national industry self-regulation programs, and continues to evolve its work and grow its impact by providing business guidance and fostering best practices in arenas such as advertising, child-directed marketing, and privacy. To learn more, visit bbbprograms.org.
About the National Advertising Division: The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs provides independent self-regulation and dispute resolution services, guiding the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for advertising truth and accuracy, delivering meaningful protection to consumers and leveling the playing field for business.
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