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Nestle targeted by lawsuit over water sourcing

Although bottled water giant Nestle's website says its Ice Mountain water is sourced from springs in Maryland and other states, the company has been accused of failing to disclose where some of its water comes from. One company recently filed a consumer lawsuit in federal court, alleging that it paid to have Ice Mountain water delivered to its office in the belief that it comes from spring water. However, the company claims it later learned that the bottles it received were filled with filtered municipal tap water. This is not the first time Nestle has faced civil litigation over its labeling practices.

The lawsuit claims that Nestle's failure to explain that the water was indeed tap water likely caused multiple consumers to purchase the water when they otherwise would not have done so. The plaintiff argues that this forced such consumers to pay inflated prices for essentially the same water they could have obtained for pennies per gallon from their own faucets.

Nestle has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, contending that it is bound by FDA regulations and not state consumer statutes. A Nestle representative explained that the bottles the business ordered have labels showing that they contain municipal water that has been purified through reverse osmosis, and that this disclosure is fully compliant with FDA rules. She added that Nestle is confident that the case will be thrown out.

Nestle faced a similar lawsuit in 2003, when it was accused of creating deceptive advertising that implied water for one of its popular brands came from a single spring, when in fact it was obtained from multiple sources that were miles away from each other. Nestle settled the suit, agreeing to donate $2.75 million to charities and offer consumer discounts worth $8.05 million.

With a 32 percent share based on total volume, Nestle occupies the number one spot in the U.S.'s ever-expanding $11 billion bottled water market. The company owns seven of the 10 most successful bottled water brands in the nation.

Source: USA Today, "Disputes spring up over bottled water sources," Kevin McCoy, Dec. 13, 2012

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