Bausch & Lomb agrees to change misleading ad

December 1, 2007

Bausch & Lomb has changed its ads that say its contact lens solution (ReNu MultiPlus) was the number one selling multipurpose formula in the United States after Alcon challenged it.

Key Points

New York-Bausch & Lomb has altered its advertising claims that its contact lens solution (ReNu MultiPlus) was the number one selling multipurpose formula in the United States after an advertising review body said the assertion was misleading.

The claim was challenged by Alcon Inc., which said its contact lens solution (Opti-Free Express) had a greater market share and had sold 27.1 million more ounces than Bausch & Lomb's contact lens solution during the 52 weeks before April 14.

Alcon brought its complaints before the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), which reviewed evidence from both companies. Bausch & Lomb argued that it could support its claim of having the number one selling formula because its formula is sold to several mass retailers for their private-label brands.

"ReNu MultiPlus, quite simply, is not currently the leading selling brand. Consequently, NAD recommended that the originally challenged claim and the subsequently modified one be discontinued," the review body said in its decision.

As part of its evidence, Bausch & Lomb did not dispute Alcon's sales figures, but said it had believed its wording was technically accurate. According to independent data it presented, the combined sales of Bausch & Lomb's product and its private label versions-which contain the exact formulation-showed a 35% market share for the 52-week period ending April 28. During that period, Alcon's product captured 18.4% market share, according to the report.

"The advertiser stated that this is what it intended to communicate and what it in good faith believes it has communicated," the report noted.

A matter of trust

Also challenged was Bausch & Lomb's claim that its contact lens solution has been "trusted by over 20 million contact lens wearers and their eye-care professionals."

In its evidence, Bausch & Lomb pointed to data provided by AC Nielsen and Health Product Resources, a service that monitors the ocular market, that it said supported that claim. By its conservative estimate, Bausch & Lomb said, 23.1 million different people in the United States have purchased the company's contact lens solution since 1997. Over the course of six pages, the company explained the mathematical formula it used to arrive at its basis for the claim. Bausch & Lomb argued that its sales and use data could reasonably translate into "trust."

However, the review body disagreed.

" 'Trust' connotes a degree of confidence and loyalty in the product that is independent of and distinguishable from one's decision to purchase the product," it said. "In order to ascertain if a product is trusted by consumers and doctors, the advertiser would need to ask them directly."

Dispute resolution

Holly R. Clark, Alcon's manager of global Web strategy, said the company believed it was important to challenge Bausch & Lomb's claims so that consumers would not be misled. In an effort to resolve the dispute quickly, Alcon took its complaints directly to the NAD rather than contact its competitor, she said.

Clark noted that both companies had previously filed unrelated advertising complaints, and each had been successful at times. The process provided by the review board offers a less expensive and typically more expeditious means of settling disputes between competitors than taking them to the FDA or the court system, she said.

"The promotional materials we challenged could lead consumers to believe the ReNu brand, as opposed to the formulation, is being used because more consumers and physicians trust/recommend it when there are no data to support this," Clark said.

She said it is important that consumers can trust the advertising claims they see daily, "especially in the wake of the contact lens solution contamination issues over the past year or more."