GOJO Industries has sued a competitor, alleging the company is making false and misleading representations about the Akron-based company’s Purell hand sanitizer.
In a suit filed last week in Summit County Common Pleas Court, GOJO alleged violations of the Ohio Deceptive Trade Practices Act, interference with business relationships and unfair competition against Safe Hands LLC of Tallahassee, Fla., and SH Distribution, also of Tallahassee.
In the suit, GOJO says the action “concerns false advertising, false representations and/or misrepresentations made about GOJO’s Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer.” The action by Safe Hands has caused “irreparable damage to GOJO,” the suit says.
Safe Hands produces and sells a product by the same name, which is an instant hand sanitizer. The active ingredient, according to the suit, is benzalkonium chloride, or BZK.
In a statement, Dr. Jay Reubens, chairman and chief executive of Safe Hands said he could not comment directly about the GOJO complaint. “However, our team here at Safe Hands and I have been educating the public on the dangers of alcohol-based hand sanitizers for the past 20 years. Our goal is to continue our mission and campaign to educate consumers and the health-care industry on the safety risks at hand.
“We are very confident that consumers and the industry are on the brink of witnessing a paradigm shift with respect to the use of the alcohol-based sanitizers. We at Safe Hands welcome this opportunity to factually address misconceptions perpetuated by the alcohol-based hand sanitizer industry.”
GOJO alleges that Safe Hands falsely says alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not safe and effective. Other characterizations are “dangerous” and “lethal,” a “threat to public safety,” irritating to skin and destroys skin cells, “will shred the hands” and is a “necessary evil.”
GOJO says the Food and Drug Administration has classified alcohol-based hand sanitizers of a certain category, which includes Purell, as safe and effective. GOJO also says Safe Hands is falsely stating its product is safer and more effective than Purell.
GOJO spokesman Joe Drenik said the company does not comment about legal matters.
The company said it has recently obtained two permanent injunctions “against nearly identical false and misleading statements made by other producers and manufacturers of BZK-based hand sanitizers” in Summit County courts.
GOJO is asking for injunctions to stop Safe Hands from making the claims, attorneys’ fees and the destruction of any marketing material including the allegedly false information.
The suit asks that Safe Hands be required to account to GOJO “for all sales and purchases that have occurred to date,” and that Safe Hands surrender profits made from the advertising and unfair competition.
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.