Vermont AG settles with Maine firm over misrepresentations

Bryan Cohen Sep. 28, 2011, 1:37pm


MONTPELIER, Vt. (Legal Newsline) - Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced a settlement Tuesday with a West Paris, Maine-based compostable products company that allegedly misrepresented the availability of local composting options for its products.

Penley Corporation will pay $10,000 to the state of Vermont in costs and penalties and an additional $10,000 to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont to support its Harvest Health Coupon Program.

Beginning in June 2007, Penley marketed a "Full Circle" line of cutlery that was capable of being composted in a commercial or professional managed municipal facility. The Full Circle packaging bore prominent references to compostability, including the term "compostable!" in two places and in red type along with a boxed Biodegradable Plastics Institute/US Composting Council logo next to a third, capitalized, "COMPOSTABLE."

There are few commercial or municipal facilities in Vermont, however, that accept compostable cutlery and most state residents have not had and do not have practical access to such facilities. While Full Circle cutlery packaging did state that municipal or commercial composing facilities "may not exist in your community. Check to see if they do," this disclosure was allegedly printed in an almost unreadable five point typeface on the back of the package.

"If most Vermonters can't compost an item in the state, then advertising the item as 'compostable' is deceptive," Sorrell said.

It is estimated that retail sales of Full Circle cutlery in Vermont totaled between 7,920 and 13,776 boxes, for which local consumers paid between a total of $10,216 and $17,771.

Penley's settlement with Sorrell's office prohibits the company from representing to the public, directly or by implication, the compostability of any products sold in or into Vermont unless there are municipal or commercial facilities reasonably and practically available to a substantial majority of Vermont consumers that accept those products for composting or there is a prominent disclosure on the product packaging of the absence of such facilities that is proximate to the compostability claim and is no less visible or smaller than the claim itself.

Penley's payment to NOFA Vermont will support a program that gives matching coupons as an incentive to 3SquaresVT recipients to buy health, farm-fresh foods at over 30 local farmers' markets.

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