Paula’s Choice Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over Animal Testing Claims

skin car paula's choice bottle

Paula’s Choice Hit With A Lawsuit Alleging Animal Testing For Market Gain In China, Shaking Its Cruelty-Free Reputation.

Paula’s Choice, the beloved skincare brand known for its staunch cruelty-free stance, faces a class action lawsuit alleging the company of conducting animal testing to expand its market reach into China, seemingly contradicting its own ethical commitments.

Ethics vs. expansion

Filed recently, the lawsuit claims that Paula’s Choice compromised on its principles for profit, engaging in animal testing practices for several of its products to navigate China's stringent regulatory landscape. This move, according to the complaint, betrays the brand’s long-standing promise of non-animal testing globally, a pledge that has been a cornerstone of its identity since its inception by Paula Begoun in the early '90s.

The Paula’s Choice class action lawsuit points out that consumers in the United States were led to believe they were purchasing genuinely cruelty-free products, a belief that was seemingly misplaced given the brand's actions to satisfy Chinese market requirements.

The allegations suggest a breach of trust, with the filing stating that "when a company agrees to perform animal testing to gain access to the Chinese market—while claiming the opposite... consumers who purchased the products with false representations... are harmed."

From consumer trust to turmoil

Plaintiff Jesse Vargison, leading the legal charge, shares a personal account that echoes the broader discontent. A Seattle resident, Vargison was introduced to Paula’s Choice in 2018 and was drawn to the brand's cruelty-free claims, which he meticulously researched before his first purchase.

His buying history, spanning over 30 products, was deeply influenced by the brand's "no animal testing" marketing. Vargison asserts that he would not have patronized Paula’s Choice had he been aware of any animal testing.

Discovering that some of his purchased products were approved by China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA)—implying they underwent animal testing—was particularly disheartening. Vargison stresses that this knowledge would have led him to stop supporting Paula’s Choice sooner, according to the filing.

Challenges in China

This lawsuit casts a spotlight on the challenging dynamics foreign cosmetics brands face when attempting to enter the lucrative Chinese market, which, until 2021, mandated animal testing for all imported cosmetics. This requirement placed brands like Paula’s Choice, which have built their reputation on cruelty-free promises, in a difficult position, forcing them to choose between market expansion and ethical adherence.

Paula’s Choice has been a pioneer in the online skincare market, with a loyal customer base drawn to its transparency and ethical standards. The brand's commitment was further underscored by its “Leaping Bunny” certification, which it has held since at least 2013, symbolizing its cruelty-free practices.

It's worth noting that Paula’s Choice is not the first to face such scrutiny. The beauty and personal care industry has seen similar legal challenges, with John Paul Mitchell facing a similar class action lawsuit last year for purportedly misleading consumers about its cruelty-free practices to access the Chinese market.

The Paula’s Choice proposed class action lawsuit seeks to represent all individuals who purchased Paula’s Choice products in the U.S. from December 22, 2009, until the date specified in the complaint.

The plaintiffs are represented by Sean R. Matt, Robert B. Carey, Michella A. Kras, and Alisa A. Sherbow of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.

The Paula’s Choice skincare animal testing class action lawsuit is Vargison et al. v. Paula’s Choice LLC, Case No. 2:24-cv-00342, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle.



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