Johnson & Johnson accused of misleading consumers

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Tricking consumers will cost the makers of Band-Aids, baby shampoo, and Ben Gay $506,000 after Fresno County prosecutors caught them in the act.

Tricking consumers will cost the makers of Band-Aids, baby shampoo, and Ben Gay $506,000 after Fresno County prosecutors caught them in the act.

"It's obvious this tactic works because major manufacturers are doing it," said ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi.

Johnson & Johnson is accused of using deceptive packaging amounting to fraud against people in California.

Fresno County prosecutors say Johnson & Johnson and Neutrogena have been misleading customers into believing they were getting more of a product than they really were by using false bottoms or false sides in their packaging.

A stroll down the aisles of any grocery store will reveal dozens of Johnson & Johnson products. From the signature baby shampoo to Tylenol for pain relief or Rogaine to stop hair loss, the company sold $71 billion worth of products in 2013. But Fresno's district attorney says Johnson & Johnson has been breaking the law to sell products in California. Objects in their boxes may be smaller than they appear.

"The fact that the product - the box or the container - looks bigger is going to attract the eye of the buyer and it's going to be grabbed quickly and thrown into the shopping cart," Capozzi said.

Fresno's DA's office teamed up with prosecutors in five other counties and the ag department to evaluate packaging. As Action News reported in October, they did the same thing with CVS products -- forcing the pharmacy to pay almost a quarter million dollars. Johnson & Johnson is paying more than twice as much for its violations. The money goes to the counties -- Fresno, Yolo, Shasta, San Joaquin, Sacramento and Contra Costa -- but Capozzi says it's not a class action -- consumers won't directly receive anything.

"What it is is an action by the DA on behalf of society as a whole to stop a deceptive practice by certain manufacturers," Capozzi said.

Consumer experts say the deception usually has to be obvious and repetitive for prosecutors to take action. The DA who negotiated this deal for two years tells us the goal was to protect people from bogus boxes and plastic containers, as well as to reduce environmental waste.

Johnson & Johnson has two years to repackage its products distributed anywhere in California. A company spokesperson sent us this response after our story aired:

"Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies has resolved a dispute with several counties in California related to the packaging of various consumer products. Our goal is always to provide a better consumer experience, and we continually evaluate packaging over the course of a product's life cycle. We have already updated packaging for some products with additional changes to be introduced over the next two years."

After the CVS story in October, we heard a lot of complaints about other deceptive packaging.

In Fresno County, you can file a consumer complaint form with the DA's office. Just follow this link: http://bit.ly/1B2YrnG




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consumer watchlawsuitu.s. & worldbusiness
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