California cemented its status as the nation’s leader of cosmetics legislation when it passed the Cosmetic, Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act of 2020 (“CFFIRKA”). Effective January 1, 2022, California’s newest cosmetic reporting law requires cosmetic companies to publicly disclose all fragrance and flavor ingredients in their products that are found on one of 22 “designated lists”. CFFIRKA supplements the state’s Safe Cosmetics Act (SCA), which for more than a decade has required companies to report to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Safe Cosmetics Program whether any of their cosmetic products contain chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. Now, the reporting requirements extend to fragrances and flavor ingredients that may pose health hazards.
Many cosmetic products contain fragrances or ingredients that give products flavor. In enacting CFFIRKA – a first-of-its-kind consumer “right-to-know law”, the state was concerned that some fragrance and flavor ingredients may have negative health effects, especially to those who are frequently exposed, such as salon workers. Thus, the new law is intended to provide the public with knowledge about the use of such fragrances and flavor ingredients in both retail and professional-use cosmetics, so consumers and workers can determine whether and how to mitigate their exposure.
Each entity whose name appears on the label of a cosmetic product must comply with CFFIRKA, which means companies such as distributors and importers may also have reporting obligations. CFFIRKA requires disclosure if a cosmetic product sold in California contains fragrance and/or flavor ingredients included on one or more of the 22 designated lists identified in California Health and Safety Code Section 111792.6. Among others, the lists include those chemicals on California’s Proposition 65 list as well as chemicals classified by other federal and state agencies and international bodies. The ingredients on the 22 designated lists are subject to change as each list is revised, requiring companies to pay special attention to such changes. All cosmetic products with reportable ingredients sold in California after January 1, 2022, regardless of date of manufacture, must be reported under this mandate. However, there is no requirement under CFFIRKA to make changes to product labels.
Additionally, cosmetic companies must disclose specific “fragrance allergens” if the allergens are present at or above 0.01 percent (100 parts per million) in rinse-off cosmetic products, or at or above 0.001 percent (10 parts per million) in leave-on cosmetics products. The subset of CFFIRKA reportable ingredients called “fragrance allergens” have distinct reporting requirements, and must be reported regardless of their intended purpose in the product (i.e. they must be reported even if they are not used to impart scent or counteract odor). In addition to disclosing the reportable fragrance, flavor, or allergen ingredients, businesses must also disclose each ingredient’s Chemical Abstracts Services (CAS) number, the Universal Product Code (UPC) of the cosmetic product that includes the ingredient, and whether the cosmetic product is intended for professional or retail cosmetic use.
Information reported by companies under CFFIRKA (as well as under the SCA) is made publicly available through the CDPH’s Safe Cosmetics Database, which is available at https://cscpsearch.cdph.ca.gov/search/publicsearch. To date, more than 90,000 cosmetic products have been reported to the CDPH.
Conkle Kremer & Engel attorneys stay current on regulatory and legal developments that affect the cosmetics business.
As recently featured in the Los Angeles Times, Proposition 65 continues to be big business for a handful of plaintiffs’ lawyers and their select group of clients, but it’s highly questionable how much benefit California residents and consumers receive.
According to settlement data released by the California Office of the Attorney General, in 2019, 909 businesses paid close to $30 million to settle Proposition 65 claims asserted against them. The average settlement payment was nearly $33,000. Of this staggering sum, almost $24 million, or 80%, went directly into the pockets of plaintiffs’ lawyers. In sharp contrast, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), which implements Proposition 65, received only about 11% of the settlement payments, or $3.3 million. The plaintiffs – so-called “private enforcers” – took a share of more than $2.7 million.
Proposition 65, otherwise known as California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, is a “right to know” law. Prop 65 requires businesses to provide “clear and reasonable” warnings for exposures to any one of the more than 900 chemicals on the Proposition 65 list that are known to cause cancer, reproductive harm or birth defects, before they can be sold in California. The obligation to warn can fall on all parties in the supply chain – manufacturers, producers, packagers, importers, suppliers, distributors and retailers. Businesses that fail to provide such warnings risk receiving a written “Notice of Violation”, a precursor to a Proposition 65 enforcement lawsuit.
Violations of Proposition 65 can cost businesses tens of thousands of dollars in civil penalties, the noticing party’s attorneys’ fees, and defense costs. The deck is stacked against the business alleged to be in violation: In general, all the noticing party has to show is an exposure to a listed chemical. The burden of proof then shifts to the business to show that no actionable exposure has occurred, which is a difficult burden to meet under the law and can require costly expert witnesses. Accordingly, most Proposition 65 cases settle either out-of-court in a private settlement agreement, or in court through a court-approved consent judgment.
One chemical, di(2-ethylhexyl phthalate) or DEHP, accounted for more than half of the 2019 settlements. DEHP, a phthalate, is on the Proposition 65 list as a chemical known to cause cancer and reproductive harm. DEHP is commonly used in plastics to make them flexible. According to OEHHA, DEHP can be found in various types of plastic consumer products, including some shower curtains, furniture and automobile upholstery, garden hoses, floor tiles, coverings on wires and cables, rainwear shoes, lunchboxes, binders, backpacks, plastic food packaging materials, and medical devices and equipment. In 2019, businesses settled claims over DEHP exposure from such products as cosmetic cases, goggles, gloves, erasers, hangers and bedding storage cases. The phthalate diisonoyl phthalate (DINP) and lead are two other chemicals that were the frequent subjects of 2019 settlements.
Proposition 65 claims in 2019 were again dominated by a small group of plaintiffs’ lawyers whose practices consist of sending out Notices of Violation and extracting settlements from businesses.
The private enforcers that have sent Notices of Violation this year include:
• APS&EE (represented by Law Offices of Lucas T. Novak) • Anthony Ferreiro (represented by Brodsky & Smith, LLC) • As You Sow (represented by Danielle Fugere and Chelsea Linsley of As You Sow) • Audrey Donaldson (represented by Voorhees & Bailey, LLP) • Berj Parseghian (represented by KJT Law Group PLC) • Brad Van Patten (represented by Law Offices of George Rikos) • CA Citizen Protection Group, LLC (represented by Khansari Law Corporation and Blackstone Law) • Center for Environmental Health (represented by Lexington Law Group) • Clean Label Project (represented by Davitt, Lalley, Dey & McHale, PC) • Consumer Advocacy Group, Inc. (represented by Yeroulshalmi & Yeroulshalmi) • Consumer Protection Group, LLC (represented by Blackstone Law) • Dennis Johnson (represented by Voorhees & Bailey, LLP) • Ecological Alliance, LLC (represented by Custodio & Dubey LLP) • Ecological Rights Foundation (represented by Law Offices of Brian Gaffney) • Ema Bell (represented by Brodsky & Smith, LLC) • Environmental Health Advocates, Inc. (represented by Nicholas & Tomasevic LLP and Glick Law Group) • Environmental Research Center, Inc. (represented by Michael Freund & Associates, Law Office of Richard M. Franco and Aqua Terra Aeris Law Group) • EnviroProtect, LLC (represented by Kawahito Law Group APC) • Erika McCartney (represented by Environmental Law Foundation) • Evelyn Wimberley (represented by Law Offices of Stephen Ure, PC) • Gabriel Espinoza (or Gabriel Espinosa) (represented by Brodsky & Smith, LLC) • Keep America Safe and Beautiful (represented by Custodio & Dubey LLP and Sy & Smith, PC) • Key Sciences, LLC (represented by Kyle Wallace and Davitt, Lalley, Dey & McHale) • Kim Embry (represented by Nicholas & Tomasevic LLP and Glick Law Group) • Kimberly Ann Harrison (represented by Law Office of Rick Morin, PC) • Laurence Vinocur (represented by The Chanler Group) • Mary Elizabeth Romero (represented by Agency D&L) • Maureen Parker (represented by Law Offices of Stephen Ure, PC) • My Nguyen (represented by Seven Hills LLP) • Paul Wozniak (represented by The Chanler Group) • Precila Balabbo (represented by Brodsky & Smith, LLC) • Public Health and Safety Advocates, LLC (represented by Law Offices of Danialpour & Associates) • Ryan Acton (represented by O’Neil Dennis) • Sara Hammond (represented by Joseph D. Agliozzo, Law Corporation) • Shefa LMV, Inc. (represented by Law Office of Daniel N. Greenbaum) • Susan Davia (represented by Sheffer Law Firm) • Tamar Kaloustian (represented by KJT Law Group PLC) • The Chemical Toxin Working Group, Inc. (represented by Khansari Law Corporation) • Zachary Stein (represented by KJC Law Group APC)
Businesses should be aware of and ensure compliance with Proposition 65’s requirements if their products are sold in California. In the event a Notice of Violation is received, businesses should contact qualified legal counsel. Conkle, Kremer & Engel attorneys are highly experienced in defending businesses against Proposition 65 claims as well as counseling businesses on compliance, in order to minimize the risk of enforcement actions.
2019 Prop 65 By the Numbers:
• 1,000: Notices of Violation Served • 909: Number of Settlements/Consent Judgments • $29.7 Million: Paid by Businesses to Resolve Claims • $23.7 Million: Attorneys’ Fees & Costs Collected by Noticing Parties’ Attorneys • $2.7 Million: Payments Collected by Noticing Parties • $3.3 Million: Payments to OEHHA • $32,706: Average Settlement/Judgment Amount
The number of enforcement actions in 2019 was not a fluke. Similar numbers have been accumulated in prior years. Just in the first few months of 2020, a considerable number of new enforcement actions have been pursued. 2020 Prop 65 enforcement actions will be reviewed in an upcoming blog post.
However, under the Proposition 65 regulations as amended last August, retailers are now legally responsible for compliance only under certain prescribed circumstances. In addition to having to provide Internet warnings for products sold online, a retailer is responsible for providing a warning if: • the retailer is selling the product under its brand or trademark; • the retailer knowingly introduced a listed chemical into the product or knowingly caused a listed chemical to be created in the product; • the retailer covered, obscured or altered a warning label that was affixed to the product; • the retailer received a notice and warning materials for the exposure but sold the product without posting or displaying the warning; or • the retailer has actual knowledge of the potential exposure requiring the warning and there is no upstream entity that can be held liable for the violation. Actual knowledge means specific knowledge of the exposure received from any reliable source. If the source of this knowledge is a Prop 65 notice of violation, the retail seller is deemed to have actual knowledge five business days after receipt.
Despite the new regulations, retailers are continuing to be served with notices of violation. For example, while Amazon has received 1,027 notices of violation since the California Attorney General’s Office began keeping track in 2000, most of those notices were served in recent years: 255 in 2016, 404 in 2017, 180 in 2018 and 57 so far this year. Private enforcers often include retailers in their notices to apply settlement pressure on manufacturers, distributors and other entities upstream in the supply chain, who are often required to enter into indemnity agreements with their retailers. Retailers should continue to be vigilant about having adequate indemnity agreements in place, ensuring that the products they sell have been tested for compliance with Proposition 65 and if warnings are required, to provide the appropriate warnings.
Conkle, Kremer & Engel attorneys routinely assist clients in ensuring compliance with Proposition 65 and other regulations, and defend businesses against Proposition 65 when a notice of violation is received.
2018 turned out to be the most lucrative year ever for Proposition 65 attorneys and their clients, according to settlement data collected by the California Office of Attorney General (OAG). The famous “right-to-know” law has been on the books for more than 30 years, and requires businesses to provide warnings for exposures to any one of the more than 900 chemicals on the Proposition 65 list that are known to cause cancer, reproductive harm or birth defects – or face hefty civil penalty and attorneys’ fees demands from the OAG, a district attorney or, far more commonly, private enforcers who initiate their claims by sending Notices of Violation.
Reviewing the recent trends, the indications are that the private enforcer claimants are becoming more efficient at extracting as much as possible from the unfortunate businesses who receive Notices of Violation. Even though California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is supposed to benefit from Proposition 65 recoveries, the chart below shows graphically that the vast majority of the money obtained by the claimants stays with the claimants – and most of it stays with the claimants’ attorneys. In 2018, less than 12% of the money obtained by private enforcers went to OEHHA, and more than 79% went to the claimants’ attorneys.
The claimants’ increasing efficiency is shown clearly by the fact that, even though the number of Notices of Violation sent to businesses dropped by approximately 13% (2,710 in 2017 and just 2,364 in 2018), the number of settlements and judgments increased from 693 in 2017 to 834 in 2018. The average settlement shot up by 13%, from $38,395 in 2017 to $44,097 in 2018. This was buoyed in large part by a huge increase in the attorneys’ fees and costs collected by plaintiffs’ attorneys. In 2017, plaintiffs’ attorneys took in $20.2 million in attorneys’ fees and costs. In 2018, plaintiffs’ attorneys recovered $29.1 million in attorneys’ fees and costs.
The small circle of private enforcers making these claims remains an exclusive club. The claimants active in 2018 included: Alicia Chin; Amy Chamberlin; Anthony E. Held, Ph.D., P.E.; Anthony Ferreiro; APS&EE, LLC; As You Sow; CA Citizen Protection Group, LLC; Center for Advanced Public Awareness, Inc.; Center for Environmental Health; Consumer Advocacy Group, Inc.; Dennis Johnson; Donny Macias; Ecological Alliance, LLC; Ecological Rights Foundation; Ema Bell; Environmental Law Foundation; Environmental Research Center, Inc.; EnviroProtect, LLC; Erika McCartney; Evelyn Wimberley; Gabriel Espinosa; Hector Velarde; John Moore; Estate of Karen Charlene Calacin; Kim Embry; Kingpun Cheng; Laurence Vinocur; Maureen Parker; Michael DiPirro; Paul Wozniak; Peter Englander; Precila Balabbo; Russell Brimer; Safe Products for Californians, LLC; Sara Hammond; Shefa LMV Inc.; Susan Davia; The Chemical Toxin Working Group, Inc.; and Whitney R. Leeman, Ph.D.
Questions still remain as to the effects on the Proposition 65 industry of the OAG’s amended settlement guidelines that went into effect October 1, 2016, and the new clear and reasonable warning requirements that went into effect August 30, 2018. We posited some theories in our previous blog post on the issue, but it’s too early to tell the collective effects of these changes on the net Proposition 65 costs for businesses. One thing is for certain: The risks to businesses are increasing as Proposition 65 claimants are demanding more money than ever to resolve their claims. Absent any meaningful Proposition 65 reform, that trend will only continue. Unfortunately, Proposition 65 is notoriously difficult to reform because it requires a two-thirds majority approval of each house in the Legislature and any amendment must further the purposes of Proposition 65.
The best approach for businesses is to be proactive to try to meet the Proposition 65 challenges before they become very costly burdens. Aside from carefully reviewing your compliance, the most important factor in reducing costs of resolution is to act promptly when you receive a Notice of Violation to contact qualified counsel experienced in Proposition 65 issues. Conkle, Kremer & Engel keeps up to date on developments in Proposition 65 and provides expert guidance to clients to ensure compliance with Proposition 65 and other regulations.
2018 by the Numbers
2,364: Notices of Violation Served
834: Number of Settlements/Consent Judgments
39: Number of Active Prop 65 Plaintiffs
$36.7 Million: Paid by Businesses to Resolve Claims
$29.1 Million: Attorneys’ Fees & Costs Collected by Plaintiffs’ Attorneys
$3.3 Million: Payments Collected by Plaintiffs
$4.3 Million: Payments to State Agency
$44,097: Average Settlement/Judgment Amount
2017 by the Numbers
2,710: Notices of Violation Served
693: Number of Settlements/Consent Judgments
38: Number of Active Prop 65 Plaintiffs
$26.6 Million: Paid by Businesses to Resolve Claims
$20.2 Million: Attorneys’ Fees & Costs Collected by Plaintiffs’ Attorneys
We previously blogged about Proposition 65 trends based on data about settlements and judgments collected and made public by the California Attorney General’s Office. One trend we noted was the downward shift in civil penalty offsets known as “payments in lieu of penalties” (PILPs) or “additional settlement payments” (ASPs), due to recent amendments to the Proposition 65 regulations to rein in such payments. We’ll refer to these offsets collectively as ASPs and look at how the amendments have affected the Proposition 65 “industry”.
By way of background, Proposition 65 generally allows claimants (termed private enforcers) to keep 25% of the civil penalties as well as recover their attorneys’ fees and costs in enforcement actions. The state’s regulating agency, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) retains the other 75% of the civil penalties. While Proposition 65 authorizes penalties of up to $2,500 “per day for each violation,” the reality is that civil penalties make up a very small portion of an overall settlement or judgment: The vast majority of the payment is earmarked as attorneys’ fees and costs paid to the claimant’s lawyers.
In the past, Proposition 65 private enforcers have often demanded additional payments that were treated as offsets to civil penalties. In other words, whatever the appropriate amount of civil penalties, they would carve out a portion of it as ASPs, because the claimants could keep the ASP portion entirely or direct it to a related entity – in addition to retaining their 25% share of the civil penalties. OEHHA does not receive any part of an ASP.
The practice became concerning enough that the Attorney General’s Office amended the regulations, effective October 1, 2016, to impose additional requirements for ASPs. According to the Final Statement of Reasons for the rulemaking, the amendments were intended, among other things, to “ensure that [OEHHA] receives the civil penalty funds specified in Proposition 65, so that it has adequate resources for Proposition 65 implementation activities” and to “limit the ability of private plaintiffs to divert the statutorily mandated penalty to themselves or to third parties, in the form of [ASPs].”
The regulations as amended also reflect the Attorney General’s position that ASPs should not be included in any settlement that is not subject to judicial approval and ongoing judicial oversight. The effect has been that, since 2017, only one private settlement agreement has included ASPs. Several others were reported in 2017 and 2019, but a review of the settlement agreements showed that the private enforcer in those cases erroneously reported its 25% portion of the civil penalties as ASPs.
While this can be seen as a bright spot, it may have the unintended consequence of lowering the incentive for certain private enforcers to settle early and privately, increasing costs to businesses who receive a Proposition 65 “notice of violation” – the official precursor to legal action. Indeed, since the amendments, we have continued to see a high number of court judgments contain ASP provisions, since those are still allowed under the amended regulations but subject to additional scrutiny by the Attorney General. In 2017, 90 of the 345 court judgments called for payment of ASPs (totaling $1,421,660) and in 2018, 109 of the 366 court judgments included ASPs (totaling $1,915,083). While not all plaintiffs are as aggressive about collecting ASPs, some NGO plaintiffs (such as As You Sow, Center for Advanced Public Awareness, Center for Environmental Health, Consumer Advocacy Group, Ecological Rights Foundation and Environmental Research Center) still show a strong preference for ASPs in resolving their claims. It is possible that OEHHA’s move to restrict ASPs results in more lawsuits and fewer pre-litigation settlements, but may not ultimately reduce ASPs as much as anticipated.
More problematically, the amendments seem to have had the unintended effect of driving up the civil penalties and attorneys’ fees and costs. The amended regulations provide that ASPs should not exceed the 75% share of the civil penalty paid to OEHHA. Previously, ASPs in both private settlements and judgments often exceeded the total civil penalties. The regulations now effectively place a cap on the amount of ASPs: ASPs that exceed 75% of the civil penalties may cause the Attorney General to file an opposition. So to maximize their own recovery private enforcers are now settling for what seems to be high civil penalties and ASPs that are a hair below 75% of that amount. Legally, that is a very doubtful practice – since ASPs are an offset to civil penalties, a defendant should pay the same total amount based on statutory factors, regardless of whether any part of the payment is earmarked as an ASP or if all of it is treated as a civil penalty.
One of the most stunning observations of the trends in Proposition 65 recoveries is that the attorneys’ fee portion of Proposition 65 settlements has increased every year. As we will discuss further in a later blog post, in 2018 the total amount of attorneys’ fees and costs collected by Proposition 65 plaintiffs shattered all records. Attorneys’ fees made up 79% of all Proposition 65 recoveries in 2018 – up from 76% in 2017. The claimants’ attorneys collected an astonishing $29,117,784 – an increase of nearly $9 million over 2017. It is not a big leap to infer that there is a connection between this and the changed regulations reducing claimants’ ability to rely on ASPs – claimants may be increasing the attorneys’ fees portion of their recovery to make up for perceived “losses” in ASPs.
What do the amended regulations and the settlement trends mean for businesses defending against Proposition 65 claims? For one, settling early and privately in an out-of-court settlement is a recommended strategy. ASPs should not be part of such early agreements. This means anyone receiving a notice of violation should act promptly to obtain qualified legal counsel, because private enforcers can sue in court after giving 60 days’ notice. Certain defense strategies can be utilized to try to force an out-of-court settlement for a non-cooperating private enforcer, or at least make a court judgment less appealing to the claimant. Businesses should also take steps to minimize civil penalties and thereby ASPs by taking immediate corrective action as well as ensure that their legal counsel put together a defense that supports a minimal civil penalty recovery under the law.
Conkle, Kremer & Engel attorneys are experienced at helping clients defend against Proposition 65 claims, resolving them cost-effectively and efficiently, as well as implementing proactive strategies to avoid Proposition 65 and other regulatory issues.
Over the last several years, the California Attorney General’s Office (OAG) has released annual reports of Proposition 65 settlements through 2017. These reports make one thing clear – Proposition 65 continues to be a lucrative source for private Proposition 65 claimants and their lawyers, as the total settlement payments continues to rise through the years.
In the past, we noted that private Proposition 65 claimants and their lawyers collected at total of $17 million in settlement payments (comprised of civil penalties, “PILPs” or “Payments in Lieu of Penalties” [also known as “Additional Settlement Payments”] and attorneys’ fees and costs) in 2013, and $20 million in 2012. The trend since then has been upward on all fronts, with one notable recent qualification regarding PILPs.
Proposition 65 contemplates that private claimants will share any civil penalties collected, with 75 percent going to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and 25% being kept by the private claimants. However, Prop 65 claimants are allowed an alternative remedy of PILPs, in which the claimants can pocket 100% of the PILPs and share nothing with OEHHA. All private claimants needed to do is establish that the PILP payments will go to fund some kind of activities with a nexus to the basis for the litigation, and show how those funds would be spent. Until recently, this was not a big obstacle for Prop 65 claimants. As can be seen from the OAG reports, many Prop 65 claimants are special-purpose entities that contend their own business of pursuing Prop 65 claims serves the environmental interests they are trying to protect through pursuit of more Prop 65 claims. As a result, these entities could pocket the PILP money to self-fund their own activities to make more Prop 65 claims. Being able to keep all of the PILP money, rather than the alternative of having to give 75% of civil penalties to OEHHA, undoubtedly made PILPs very attractive to Prop 65 claimants. Perhaps the only bright spot in the chart below is the significant reduction (by more than 50%) in PILP recoveries, which followed an amended regulation that went into effect on October 1, 2016 to tighten requirements for PILP settlements. We’ll develop more on this amendment and its effects in a future blog post.
Finally, but clearly most significantly in terms of dollars spent on settlements of Prop 65 claims, private claimants’ lawyers are entitled to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. As seen in OAG reports, and displayed graphically below, this attorney fee recovery constitutes by far the largest portion of Prop 65 settlements.
Since 2012, total settlement payments have increased substantially, reaching their high-water mark in 2016 but not declining very much in 2017 (2018 figures have not yet been fully released by OAG). Between 2014 and 2017, Prop 65 settlement payments totaled well over $25 million per year. Overall, the settlement payments are comprised of attorney fee recoveries to claimants’ lawyers, PILP recoveries to claimants, and a smaller number of civil penalties that are shared 25% with claimants and 75% with OEHHA. In sum, every dollar shown in the chart below, other than the OEHHA portion shown in red, has gone to either the Prop 65 claimants or the claimants’ lawyers:
When viewed graphically, it becomes all the more evident that the vast majority of Prop 65 settlements benefit claimants and their lawyers, not OEHHA or any other government agency charged with protecting the public. Questions must arise whether this was really the intent of Proposition 65, however beneficent was its purpose.
2016 was the biggest year for Prop 65 private claimants, according to data released by the California Attorney General’s Office. In 2016, private claimants settled 760 cases, suing smaller businesses and larger entities like K-Mart, Michaels, Williams-Sonoma, and Twinings. The settlements for that year totaled over $30 million.
Of the $30 million collected in settlement payments in 2016, attorneys’ fees made up more than $21.5 million, or 71.5% of all private settlements. In addition, while civil penalties amounted to just over $5 million, or 18% of all private settlements, private claimants can take 25% of any civil penalty assessed as a “bounty.” In 2016, the civil penalties retained by claimants represented a sum of $1,361,500, or 4.51% of all private settlements. PILP money made up 10.42% of all private settlements. That means approximately $3.1 million landed in the hands of private claimants and their attorneys, in addition to the attorneys’ fees and civil penalty bounties they received.
A few firms did particularly well that year. In 2016, The Chanler Group brought in 242 settlements for over $7.4 million. 83% of this figure, or over $6 million, was paid out in the form of attorneys’ fees and costs. Brodsky & Smith brought in 99 settlements for nearly $2.5 million. 90% of the nearly $2.5 million, or $2.2 million, in settlement payments went to the lawyers as attorneys fees and costs.
Some claimant representatives obtained settlements that were not quite as disproportionately in favor of attorneys’ fees and costs. For example, the Center for Environmental Health brought in 93 settlements in 2016, for a total of $4 million, broken down as follows: 11% as non-contingent civil penalties, 16% as PILP payments, and 74% as attorneys’ fees and costs. Similarly, the Consumer Advocacy Group brought in approximately $4 million across 71 settlements, recovering 11% as non-contingent civil penalties, 14% as PILP payments, and 75% as attorneys’ fees and costs.
The Environmental Research Center brought in 55 settlements for nearly $5 million, and the breakdown of payments was split more evenly: 36% as civil penalties, 31% as PILP payments, and 33% as attorneys’ fees and costs.
In 2017, private claimants continued to pursue Prop 65 claims, settling or obtaining judgments in 693 cases. The recoveries totaled more than $26 million. As can be readily seen in the chart above, although the total claimants’ recoveries were somewhat lower, they were on par with 2015 recoveries. Further, attorneys fees were proportionately even higher in 2017 than in preceding years, and the reduction was primarily in the PILP recoveries. Attorneys’ fees made up more than $20 million, or 76% of all private settlements, and civil penalties retained by claimants represented an additional $1,431,496 or 5.4% of all Prop 65 recoveries.
If these trends continue, total Prop 65 settlement payouts will continue to rise, imposing the “unnecessary burdens for businesses” that “are cause for public concern,” as the OAG noted in 2014. Conkle, Kremer & Engel routinely represents businesses against Prop 65 claims and lawsuits brought by private claimants, and works with businesses to develop compliance strategies to minimize the risk that they will be future targets of Prop 65 claimants.
Professional cosmetics sold in California must have full ingredient labeling in the same manner as consumer cosmetics, if the products are manufactured after July 1, 2020. The California legislature unanimously approved AB 2775, introduced by Assembly Member Ash Kalra. The bill was signed into law by Governor Brown on September 14, 2018 and enacted as new Section 110371 to the Health and Safety Code.
There are over 312,000 professional cosmetologists who are licensed to provide nail and hair services, most often in salons. The legislature found that “[i]nformation on the ingredients in professional salon products is essential to ensuring that workers and owners can make safer product choices and take steps to protect themselves and their customers against harmful exposures.”
The new law will establish that professional cosmetics must have a label affixed on the container that satisfies all of the labeling requirements for any other cosmetic pursuant to the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. Sec. 301, et seq.), and the federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (15 U.S.C. Sec. 1451, et seq.). In other words, professional cosmetics must have the same ingredient labeling as consumer cosmetics.
The law already defines the term “cosmetic” as “any article, or its components, intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to, the human body, or any part of the human body, for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.” (Health and Safety Code Section 109900) The newly-enacted law introduces a new definition of “professional cosmetic,” meaning a cosmetic “that is intended or marketed to be used only by a professional on account of a specific ingredient, increased concentration of an ingredient, or other quality that requires safe handling, or is otherwise used by a professional.” In turn, “professional” is defined for this purpose as “a person that has been granted a license by the State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology to practice in the field of cosmetology, nail care, barbering, or esthetics.”
There is arguably some ambiguity in that the new statute could be read to define a “professional cosmetic” in a circular manner as including a cosmetic that “is … used by a professional.” Such an ambiguity is not likely a concern in this particular Act. This is because the effect of this new law is just to require the same type of ingredient labeling for both consumer and professional cosmetics, so it should not matter whether a licensed professional uses a resalable consumer or professional cosmetic for purposes of compliance with this law. However, if in the future the same definition of “professional” is incorporated into other enactments (much like “the definition of cosmetics” was incorporated here from a different statute), the circular definition may become more problematic.
The new law was enacted with widespread industry support, including the Personal Care Products Council, the Professional Beauty Association, California Chamber of Commerce, and Unilever. Many manufacturers have already listed product ingredients on their professional cosmetic lines in a manner consistent with that required for retail cosmetics, and so may already be in compliance. But manufacturers should review their professional cosmetic product labeling well ahead of the July 1, 2020 effective date in order to determine whether they comply. Further, manufacturers should be aware that there is no specific “professional cosmetic” exception to other warning label requirements, such as Proposition 65, which requires warnings if use of a product on a consumer in California would result in significant exposure to identified chemicals that are known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.
Manufacturers are well-advised to seek qualified counsel to review their circumstances before committing to potentially costly label changes, to be sure they comply with all legal requirements. Conkle, Kremer & Engel attorneys stay up to date on important regulatory developments affecting their clients in the professional salon products industry, and are ready to help clients apply navigate the changing regulatory landscape in California and elsewhere.
On July 29 and 30, 2018, Conkle, Kremer & Engel continued its annual firm attendance at Cosmoprof North America in Las Vegas, visiting with longtime and new clients and observing new brands and trends in the personal care industry. This year’s edition of Cosmoprof had over 36,000 attendees with a record-breaking 1,278 exhibitors from 45 countries. CK&E attorneys attend to connect with clients and others in the cosmetics, personal care, packaging, labeling and professional beauty markets, to help clients secure distribution agreements, and to learn about the newest industry innovations and issues.
This year, trends included substantial expansion of the mens’ care and beard care sector, along with CBD-infused cosmetics and hair care products and natural and organic hair regrowth formulas. Organic products sold in California must meet strict requirements, and Products with “natural” claims can present special challenges and risks, as CK&E has addressed in previous blog posts, such as “What are Natural Products Anyway?” A new twist has been recent growth (no pun) in “hair regrowth” products labeled as “natural” or “organic” . Those classes of products face special issues in addition to whether they can fairly be called “natural” or “organic,” in that hair regrowth claims can at times run afoul of federal prohibitions on products that make drug-like claims without FDA approval, as well as federal and state labeling and advertising regulations. Finally, a new class of beauty and hair care products are based on Cannabidiol (CBD) content, taking advantage of increased acceptance of cannabis-based products. Yet CBD products continue to pose their own special issues, which will be the subject of an upcoming www.conklelaw.com blog post. CK&E is well-versed in counseling clients on all such issues, from brand protection, vendor and distribution issues to the latest CBD, natural and organic product concerns.
CK&E’s attorneys continue to pride themselves on keeping abreast of developments in the personal care market, along with assisting clients of all sizes with growth and protection of their brands and interests. CK&E is an active member of the Professional Beauty Association, the Personal Care Products Council, and other important industry trade organizations.
The “warning symbol” : A graphic “warning symbol” is now required on consumer products, other than food products. The “warning symbol” must be printed in a size no smaller than the height of the bolded word “WARNING,” and should be in black and yellow, but can be in black and white if the sign, label, or shelf tag for the product is not printed using the color yellow. The entire warning must be in a type size no smaller than the largest type size used for other “consumer information” on the product, and in no case should be smaller than 6-point type.
Listing of a specific chemical: Warnings must now specifically identify at least one listed ingredient chemical for each toxicological endpoint (cancer and reproductive toxicology) and include a link to OEHHA’s new website P65Warnings.ca.gov. Certain special categories of products, such as food and alcoholic beverages, have a specialized URL that must be used instead.
New warning language: Warning language must now warn of an exposure to a chemical or chemicals from the product, rather than just warn that the product contains the chemical or chemical. For example, “ WARNING: This product can expose you to diethanolamine, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.”
Internet and catalog requirements: For internet sales, warnings must be provided with a clearly marked hyperlink on the product display page, or otherwise prominently displayed to the purchaser before completion of the transaction. It will not be sufficient if the product sold on the internet bears the required label, but the internet point of purchase listing does not. For catalog sales, a warning must be provided in a manner that clearly associates it with the item being purchased.
Short-form warnings: The regulations allow the use of certain abbreviated “short-form” warnings, which may omit the identity of any specific chemical, only if the warning is printed on the immediate container, box or wrapper of the consumer product or is affixed to the product. For example, “ WARNING: Cancer – www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.” If a short-form warning is used on the product, the same short-form warning may be used for internet and catalog sales.
The regulations seek to minimize the burden on retail sellers of consumer products, but there are some obligations affecting resellers. Manufacturers, producers, distributors, and other upstream businesses comply with warning requirements if they affix a clear and reasonable warning to the product, or provide written notice and warning materials to an authorized agent of a retailer, among other requirements. Retailers who receive products with a Proposition 65 warning on the label, or who receive proper notice that a warning is required, are responsible for placement and maintenance of internet warnings for those products before selling to consumers in California. Retailers should only be liable for Proposition 65 violations under limited circumstances, such as if they cover, obscure, or alter a product’s warning label, or if they receive notice and warning materials but fail to display a warning, including catalog and internet warnings preceding consumer sales into California.
The particular requirements for each specific product can vary, so manufacturers and resellers are well-advised to seek qualified counsel to review their circumstances before committing to potentially costly label and website changes that may not comply with the new requirements. Conkle, Kremer & Engel attorneys stay up to date on important regulatory developments affecting their clients in the manufacturing and resale industries, and are ready to help clients navigate the changing regulatory landscape in California and elsewhere.
On May 9, 2018 Conkle, Kremer & Engel attorney John A. Conkle presented on “The State of the States” panel at the 2018 Personal Care Products Council’s Legal & Regulatory Conference. The panel focused on the increasingly strong role of state legislatures and state regulatory bodies in addressing issues of importance to the personal care products and cosmetics industries. The panel featured lively discussion of issues arising from the evolving patchwork of laws and regulations among numerous states, including California’s infamous Proposition 65, slack fill laws, and labeling and ingredient disclosure regulations, ingredient phase-out requirements and outright bans, volatile organic compound limitations to protect air quality, and animal testing regulations. The discussion included the importance of preservation and presentation of evidence to support manufacturers’ positions, including testimony in depositions and at trial.