Orange County lowers the boom on Axe

“Recently, the consumer protection unit of the Orange County (CA) District Attorney’s Office filed suit against Unilever, parent company of AXE, accusing the company of fudging the packaging of its male grooming products.” The charges, which were filed concomitantly with a proposed settlement the same day, do not claim that Axe misstated the quantity of product contained by weight, but say its packaging employed “false bottoms, false sidewalls, false lids or false coverings” which “serve no legitimate purpose and mislead consumers as to the amount of product contained in the containers. …Apparently, the DA has never purchased a bag of potato chips.” It is unclear from the coverage whether Orange County consumers were constrained from ascertaining how much product was in one of the packages by, say, lifting it to see how heavy it was, or looking at the number of ounces on the label. In settlement (the same day) of the charges, the company agreed to pay $750,000 to Orange County and $24,000 to its D.A.’s office, and to take out ads in various California newspapers with $3 coupons good off a consumer purchase of Axe. [Nick Farr, Abnormal Use; Orange County Register]

The Orange County district attorney’s office under Tony Rackauckas is emerging as an Overlawyered favorite, having knocked an impressive $16 million out of Toyota in the sudden-acceleration affair even though the cars in question do not suddenly accelerate, of which $4 million went to a locally influential tort attorney; the office has also kept mum about arrangements it has with tort attorneys. And of course Rackauckas’s office has lately been embroiled in one of the nation’s most prominent scandals of prosecutorial abuse (with retaliation angle).

P.S. Oh, and here is coverage of “slack fill” class action suits organized by private lawyers against both Unilever/Axe and competitor Procter & Gamble, confirming that this wasn’t exactly a solitary frolic on the county’s part. More: Amy Alkon.


  • Like all good extortion rackets, the DA’s office makes it easier just to pay them to go away. Any idea where that $750,000 is going to go?

  • Having experienced first hand the horrors of axe body spray via my son’s (thankfully brief period of) liberal applications, I would be much more in favor of a cease and desist order against the product line.

  • Do I smell shake-down?

  • Could even be a net negative for Axe. Oversize packaging takes up valuable retail space and the vendor will charge them for it.
    And, for the last couple decades unit pricing per oz/lb/gal has been used on supermarket shelves – at least in CA.
    Shakedown is more likely the answer. What a git.

  • I guess the DA’s office figures if it works in criminal law, why not in civil law?. By threatening prolonged pretrial jail-time and/or hefty legal fees and/or hefty fines, the judicial system has convinced millions to plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit. Why not use the same tactics to extort millions from corporations and local businesses…oh wait a minute, extortion of local business by local gov’t and ‘security’ forces has been going on for more than a century. A Deal I Can’t Refuse! ;~)