Underwear and Drugs: The Unusual Maidenform Consumer Fraud Case
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New Jersey-based Maidenform Brands Inc. has been in the business of manufacturing women’s undergarments for nearly 100 years. Similarly, Wacoal America, Inc. is company started in Japan that manufacturers women’s lingerie. So, it seems odd that these two companies are the target of a consumer fraud lawsuit based on drugs. However, New York plaintiffs Christina Caramore and Michelle Martine have indeed filed a lawsuit against Maidenform and Wacoal based on claims associated with drugs that the underwear manufacturers embedded into the fabric used in the companies’ undergarments.
Maidenform’s and Wacoal’s Products
Maidenform manufacturers and markets a line of shapewear known as “Flexees” and “Instant Slimmer.” According to Maidenform’s website the Instant Slimmer line is made using a Novarel Slim yarn technology that helps “reduce the appearance of celluite.” Similarly, Wacoal offers a product called iPant. On its website Wacoal makes the following claim: “The iPant is constructed of Novarel Slim® nylon microfibers with embedded microcapsules containing caffeine to promote fat destruction; vitamin E to prevent the effects of aging; ceramides to restore and maintain the skin’s smoothness; and retinol and aloe vera to moisturize and increase the firmness of the skin.”
According to Maidenform and Wacoal, the result of wearing undergarments made with this combination of ingredients is fat reduction and a reduction in the appearance of cellulite. In a press release issued by Wacoal, Wacoal boasts that tests show that the majority of women who used products made with Novarel Slim fabric report an “improved appearance, a reduction
in thigh measurement and that their clothes felt less tight.”
Caramore and Martine dispute the defendant’s claims, arguing that the products do not work. Thus, the two companies engaged in a course of deceptive and misleading advertising to market these products. To support their contention that the defendant’s products do not work, the plaintiffs point to research published by the Mayo Clinic that concludes that cellulite cannot be reduced by topical application. The plaintiffs further contend that the defendants have taken advantage of insecurities of women about their body image and charge up to 50% more for the products that include the concoction of caffeine, vitamin E, ceramides, retinol and aloe vera.
There is no evidence that Maidenform’s and Wacoal’s products have caused anyone harm, thus the lawsuit filed by Caramore and Martine do not amount product liability claims with the plaintiffs seeking damages for injuries suffered. The lawsuit accuses the defendants of violating the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, of breaching express warranties, and of unjust enrichment. The plaintiffs simply want their money back because the products do not work.
The result of this recently filed lawsuit that brings together chemistry and underwear is at this point unknown. However, this type of lawsuit does have significant precedent. Recently consumers complained about misleading claims that Skechers and Reebok made regarding sneakers that purportedly toned the wearer’s legs. As a result, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued each company. Ultimately the FTC received $25 million from Reebok and $40 million from Skechers to settle charges that their “leg-toning” sneakers were a sham. The FTC may very well get involved in the Maidenform/Wacoal disputes.
It seems odd that a company would develop and market a product that simply does not work. When a company loses or settles a lawsuit regarding false advertising, the company rarely admits wrongdoing. Do you think that there are some consumers who found that Maidenform’s and Wacoal’s products do actually work? Is it simply a matter that it works for some and not others?