Kanebo litigation problems continue with skin whitening group lawsuit

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Kanebo litigation problems continue with skin whitening group lawsuit
Japan cosmetics giant Kanebo is continuing to face legal action from consumers, relating to skin problems experienced following the use of its whitening products.

The most recent legal proceedings against the company has seen a group of 14 consumers in Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures sue Kanebo Cosmetics for damages that are expected to total JAP¥70m (US$675,000).

The latest action is the first group lawsuit to be bought against the company, building on the claim made by thousands of individuals that a range of skin lightening and brightening products containing an ingredient called Rhododenol caused blotches and infections.

Each of the 14 male and female plaintiffs in the group lawsuit is aged between 35 and 70 and is suing Kanebo for compensation amounting to ¥5 million per person, according to Japanese news agency Jiji Press.

Lawsuit claims products were defective and unsafe

The lawsuit stipulates that the Kanebo skin care products, which were on the market from April 2011 for a period of just over one year, were defective and that the company had failed to ensure that the products met adequate safety standards.

In September of last year the company announced that the number of individual complaints it had received concerning the Rhodedenol-containing skin whitening had exceeded 10,000.

Consumers had reported vitiligo-type symptoms affecting their skin that had been linked to the ingredient, with thousands of cases reporting that recovery had taken months.

Kanebo criticised over recall tactics

Initially Kanebo had been criticised for its handling of the complaints, with consumer watch dogs and authorities saying that the company had been too late to recall affected products from the store shelves.

Back in February the company announced that sales in 2013 had grown by 7.8% to reach¥1.315 trillion($12.48bn), but the company did also point out that gains in its beauty division had been negated by the skin care recall.

Following the recall, the company said that it had written off a total of ¥12.1bn in sales, which hit profits by an estimated ¥2.4bn, and also accounted for approximately ¥9.7bn in expenses relating to returns from retailers.

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