Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced this week that her office, along with 21 other District Attorney’s offices in California, settled an action against Tropical Seas, Inc. The complaint alleges that Tropical Seas violated false advertising laws by making misleading and unsubstantiated claims directed at consumers seeking a sunscreen that would protect coral reefs and the marine environment.
Tropical Seas, Inc. makes sunscreen products branded with the name “Reef Safe” and promoted them, including in California, as “non-toxic to sea life” and “safe” for coral reefs. A growing body of scientific studies demonstrates that certain ingredients in sunscreen products harm coral reefs. As a result, some states and countries have banned certain sunscreen products or ingredients. Some of Tropical Seas, Inc.’s “Reef Safe” products contain one or more ingredients known to harm coral reefs. Tropical Seas, Inc. was unable to substantiate these marketing claims when contacted by the District Attorneys in the course of their statewide investigation.
District Attorney Nancy O’Malley stated, “The misleading marketing of these sunscreen products as ‘reef safe’ and as ‘non-toxic to sea life’ misinformed environmentally conscious consumers and may have exposed California’s marine environment as well as fragile coral reef environments to harm by California residents using the products in the state and on vacation.”
As part of the settlement, Tropical Seas, Inc. was ordered to pay $50,000 in civil penalties, investigative costs, and cy pres restitution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for the benefit of coral reefs in the United States and its territories. Tropical Seas, Inc. will also be subject to a permanent court order prohibiting it from making deceptive claims in California related to the non-toxicity and safety of its sunscreen products with respect to the health of coral reefs and marine and sea life. The court order also requires Tropical Seas to notify its third party sellers of the terms of the judgment. The settlement was filed in Sonoma County Superior Court.