Google Shopper Claims Deception In Germ-Killing Cleaner Ad

By Mike LaSusa
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Law360 (June 16, 2020, 7:43 PM EDT) -- A Massachusetts woman has accused Google and parent company Alphabet Inc. of advertising a Pine-Sol cleaning product with false claims about its germ-killing abilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a proposed class action filed Tuesday in Boston federal court.

Judith Golditch said she bought a two-pack of 100-ounce bottles of Pine-Sol Multi Surface Cleaner on March 4, as fears mounted over the global spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Golditch said she purchased the product in the shopping section of Google's search engine, where she was swayed by claims that the product would kill "99.9% of germs at home and work." But Golditch alleges there are "no reliable studies" to back up that assertion.

"The product does not kill a variety of germs and/or bacteria including certain germs/bacteria that cause a variety of diseases including certain strains of influenza, Ebola, and norovirus," the Google user said.

Golditch says Google hawked the Pine-Sol with false claims in order to boost sales and profits.

"Defendants' misconduct alleged above results in additional revenues to defendants at the expense of consumers and other purchasers of the product from the Google website," she said.

Golditch, suing on behalf of anyone who bought the same product since June 2017, is alleging a violation of Massachusetts state false advertising law as well as unjust enrichment. She's seeking unspecified damages, attorney fees and costs.

Google, Alphabet and counsel for Golditch didn't respond on Tuesday to requests for comment.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, several suits have been filed over the alleged misrepresentation of various products' germ-killing powers.

Last month, a federal judge blocked Xephyr LLC from selling colloidal silver products that purport to treat the coronavirus, saying the Oklahoma company's distribution of the unapproved alternative drugs threatens public safety.

Just a week earlier, a California federal judge had sided with the Department of Justice in barring hand sanitizer maker Innovative BioDefense Inc. from marketing its products as protecting against a range of infectious diseases after a bench trial shot down its affirmative defenses.

And in March, before the virus was declared a national emergency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission started cracking down on supplement companies, as well as televangelist Jim Bakker, for pushing unapproved drugs that purport to treat the coronavirus.

Golditch is represented by Edward L. Manchur.

Counsel information for Google wasn't immediately available on Tuesday.

The case is Judith Golditch v. Alphabet Inc. et al., case number 1:20-cv-11142, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

--Additional reporting by Kevin Stawicki and Mike Curley. Editing by Kelly Duncan.

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