Lawsuit accuses actress Jessica Alba's Honest shopping website of fraudulent labelling

Actress Jessica Alba arriving at the Saint Laurent fall collection fashion show in Los Angeles on Feb 10.
Actress Jessica Alba arriving at the Saint Laurent fall collection fashion show in Los Angeles on Feb 10. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Honest Co, the shopping website co-founded by actress Jessica Alba, has been accused of fraudulently labelling dozens of home and personal care products as natural, plant-based or chemical-free, causing consumers to overpay.

A lawsuit filed on Friday by Brad and Manon Buonasera in United States District Court in Manhattan targets Honest's marketing of at least 41 items such as floor cleaners, laundry detergent, children's toothpaste, soap and bubble bath.

While the products were labelled "natural", "all natural", "naturally derived", "plant-based" and "no harsh chemicals (ever!)", they contained "a spectacular array of synthetic and toxic ingredients", such as the toxins phenoxyethanol and methylisothiazolinone, the Buonaseras said.

"Honest's products are a chemical soup," the complaint said.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages that could top US$5 million (S$7 million) and be tripled. They also want class-action status for New Yorkers who bought Honest's products.

Honest has already discontinued or changed ingredients and labels for some of the 41 products, the complaint said.

In a statement, Honest said: "The Honest Company takes its responsibility to our consumers seriously and strongly stands behind our products. These allegations are without merit and we will vigorously defend this baseless lawsuit."

Alba was not named as a defendant. The Buonaseras' lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A similar lawsuit over five Honest products is pending in a federal court in Los Angeles. Honest wants the lawsuit dismissed.

The Buonaseras said they sued after buying Honest's Conditioning Detangler and Shampoo & Body Wash at a Costco store in Manhattan's Harlem neighbourhood.

They said they contacted Honest in mid-September, and sued after the Santa Monica, California-based company failed to correct its advertising.

Honest raised US$100 million in an August funding round and, according to a published report, has worked with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley on a possible initial public offering. The Buonaseras' complaint refers to that plan.

The case is Buonasera et al v. Honest Co, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-01125.