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Spray Paint Claims Spur Suit

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

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Rust-Oleum now faces a proposed class action lawsuit one year after an advertising industry watchdog took aim at the company over ad claims about one of its consumer spray paint product lines.

The case, filed in late February in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that Rust-Oleum is engaged "in past and present deceptive representation" regarding its Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover 2x Spray Paint.

spray paint
© / carlosalvarez

The proposed class seeks restitution and an order for a corrective advertising campaign.

Rust-Oleum’s “advertisements, including the Product’s name, label, packaging, website, and brochures are false, misleading, and likely to deceive a reasonable consumer,” the suit alleges.

Class Action Filed

“Rather than providing ‘twice the coverage’ as its competitors, the Product performs below its express representations and fails to fulfill Rust-Oleum’s affirmative promises,” according to the complaint.

The suit alleges that members of the class paid more than they would have for comparable products and they have had to spend extra time and money to purchase additional paint to compensate for the coverage deficiencies.

The suit seeks class certification, an order compelling a corrective advertising campaign, restitution and other forms of relief.

Rust-Oleum, which is owned by RPM International Inc., declined to comment Monday (March 20) on the case.

Challenge from Competitor

The spray paint line first came under fire last March when the National Advertising Division, run by the Better Business Bureau, ruled that the name and marketing materials for the product went too far in making claims that it provided twice as much coverage as competitors.

Specifically, the NAD recommended that the Rust-Oleum discontinue the challenged "2x" coverage claims, including the product name. Additionally, the NAD recommended that the claim “2x’s formulation contains more solids and pigments” and visuals be discontinued.

Rust-Oleum product description

As of Monday, Painter’s Touch 2x Ultra Cover products were still listed and described on Rust-Oleum’s website.

The ruling was spurred by an investigation by the advertising industry’s self-regulating body, brought about by a complaint from The Sherwin-Williams Company, the parent company of Krylon, a competitor.

The NAD asserted in its findings that Rust-Oleum’s in-house testing that provided the basis for the “twice the coverage” claim was questionable, and that earlier testing by an independent body had pitted the Ultra Cover 2x product against older products that were no longer on the market, not the paint’s current competitors.

According to the NAD, an advertising brochure touted the product as providing twice as much coverage as “Brand K.”

Following the ruling, Rust-Oleum agreed to discontinue the “more solids and pigments” claim.

Decision Appealed

However, the manufacturer stopped short of changing the product name and appealed the decision to the National Advertising Review Board, the appellate unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation.

The manufacturer was said to have argued that reasonable consumers could interpret “2x Ultra Cover” or “Ultra Cover 2x” as indicating something other than a claim that the product delivers twice the coverage as other products, but the panel disagreed.

“[T]he record did not show that Rust-Oleum’s Painter’s Touch 2x Ultra Cover spray paint delivers twice the coverage of other spray paints,” the NARB said.

Ultimately, in September 2016, the panel recommended that the company discontinue the use of “2x” as part of the Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover product name.

Rust-Oleum disagreed with NARB’s decision, but indicated in its advertiser’s statement that “as a supporter of voluntary industry self-regulation, Rust-Oleum will take the Panel’s recommendations into consideration in formulating product labeling and advertising.”

As of Monday, Painter’s Touch 2x Ultra Cover products were still listed on Rust-Oleum’s website. A product description reads: “The breakthrough Advanced Cover Technology of Painter’s Touch® 2x Ultra Cover provides super coverage—which means your project will be done in less time and cost versus competitive brands.”


Editor's note: This story was one of our most popular in 2017, and it appeared in our Readers' Choice edition Dec. 27. Since it was originally published, the case has continued to wind its way through the court process. There has yet to be a ruling.


Tagged categories: Advertising; Business matters; Coatings Technology; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; Marketing; Rust-Oleum Corp.; Spray Paint; Testing + Evaluation

Comment from Gregory Stoner, (3/21/2017, 10:06 AM)

Why should deceptive advertising be so hard to deal with. Particularly by the BBB.

Comment from peter gibson, (3/21/2017, 1:20 PM)

It is so hard to deal with because the BBB is a consumer watchdog and not a coatings tester. What do they know for coatings. Rust - Oleum had the same issue with the wood deck coatings. These guys have no shame. Got a big fat suite in that case. Who's minding the store there. Lots of cash to burn !

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (3/22/2017, 8:48 AM)

BBB isn't really a consumer watchdog anymore. There have been numerous reports of them basically being a mechanism for buying a rating.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (3/23/2017, 11:14 AM)

The BBB, including NAD, is a third-party consumer protection group who have been caught with questionable ethics. The BBB and NAD can identify deceptive advertising claims but cannot enforce anything related (that is for the NARB and the self-regulating members to sort out and penalize as required) but they can alert consumers. Hopefully their discovery and NARB's involvement will get Rust-Oleum to correct the deceptive advertising and R-O will deal with the class action suit promptly once it is certified.

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