Flushable Fines

Published: 13 April 2018

Wet Wipes

A toilet wipe company has been fined $700K over claims their product was “flushable.”

Wet wipes blocking pipes
Image © 2016 Sydney Water Facebook page
The Australian manufacturer of White King toilet wipes has been fined $700,000 over false claims the tissues were "flushable" when instead they risked clogging up sewers. They’re probably now hoping they can flush away those fines.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says Pental's packaging and promotions for White King wipes, which included statements such as "just flush away", suggested the products were made from materials which could disintegrate in sewerage systems like toilet paper.

Pental admitted the representation was incorrect and the Federal Court has ordered the company to pay $700,000 in penalties and an additional $110,000 towards the ACCC's court costs.

ACCC commissioner Sarah Court said businesses face serious consequences for making false or misleading statements about their products.

The company should now promote a new phrase to educate their customers. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down. And if it’s a wipe, it’ll clog your pipe.”

"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," Ms Court said on Thursday.

A spokesman for the New South Wales government-owned Sydney Water, Jackson Vernon, said blockages caused by wipes are a big problem for water utilities.

"It's costing the community millions of dollars every year to deal with the blockages these products cause in the wastewater system," Mr Vernon said.

He said the ACCC's investigation and Pental's fine was a good outcome, however Sydney Water wants the wipes industry to display prominently 'do not flush' messages on the packages of their products.

Pental's penalty was reduced by the court because the company admitted to certain facts and cooperated with the investigation.

The federal court proceedings followed a complaint made to the ACCC by consumer advocate group, Choice.

The competition watchdog commenced proceedings against Pental and another wipes manufacturer, Kimberly-Clark Australia, in 2016, alleging the companies made false or misleading claims for "flushable" wipes marketed in Australia.

Proceedings against Kimberly-Clark are continuing, with the ACCC alleging that the company advertised its Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths wipes as "completely flushable" and able to "break down in sewerage system or septic tank" when that was not the case.

With AAP