Melissa Juried Kriebel
An Australian skincare company has been fined $280,000 for making false claims about the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) for two of its sunscreens.
The fine comes after an investigation by the Commerce Commission into the products of Ego Pharmaceuticals – the investigation followed a complaint by ConsumerNZ.
The initial complaint said that Ego Sunsense Sensitive Invisible SPF50+ and Ego Sunsense Ultra SPF50+ failed to provide the level of protection claimed.
Following testing by Consumer NZ, both products were found to only provide moderate protection, meaning they were lying about their SPF.
Consumer NZ’s Jon Duffy said that Ego Pharmaceuticals had originally provided Consumer NZ with test results from American company AMA laboratories that showed the sunscreen met their claimed SPF.
However, in 2021 the owner of AMA admitted to creating false lab reports, which defrauded customers and caused the sunscreen to be marketed as something it wasn’t.
As a result of this, the company was fined $280,000.
“New Zealanders must be able to shop with confidence and trust that any sunscreen they buy provides the protection stated on the label,” Duffy said.
“The fine imposed on Ego sends a strong message that sunscreen manufacturers will be held to account for dodgy dealings.”
In September of this year, the Sunscreen Act became law, meaning that sunscreens are now monitored by the Fair Trade Act and must meet Australian and New Zealand standards. Companies that breach the Act could face fines of up to $600,000.
Consumer NZ said that while the new law is good in the interim, more long-term solutions are required. They want to see sunscreen classified as a therapeutic product rather than a cosmetic one.
It means that products would have to undergo regular testing to ensure that they are labelled correctly.
“Complying with the standard isn’t enough,” he said.
“Sunscreens need to be tested regularly to ensure different batches provide the claimed protection. The current standard doesn’t require regular testing. Consumer has been testing sunscreens for many years and finds companies are sometimes relying on tests that are several years old to support their label claims.”
Duffy said Consumer NZ conducts its own regular tests of sunscreens and found that only eight of the 21 products tested met their SPF claims and requirements for broad-spectrum protection.
Duffy hopes that further action will allow kiwis to be worry-free when hitting the beach this summer.
“We want New Zealanders to have ultimate confidence they can trust their sunscreen and, we believe, regulating sunscreens as a therapeutic product is the only way to make that a reality.”
“New Zealand has the highest melanoma rates in the world, and sunscreen is not something any of us can afford to gamble with,” he said.