The California First District Court of Appeal released its decision yesterday in the case of Hill v. Roll International Corporation. The case was brought by an alleged consumer of Fiji brand bottled water, San Francisco resident Ayana Hill, who asserted that a picture of a green water drop on the label (shown above) led her to believe that Fiji water was environmentally superior and endorsed by an independent environmental organization, when in fact it is not. Her suit claimed that Fiji Water Company LLC and Roll International Corporation (an unrelated company owned by the owners of Fiji Water, Stewart and Lynda Resnick) violated the California Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising Law and Consumers Legal Remedies Act, as well as common law fraud and unjust enrichment doctrines. Ms. Hill sought certification of the suit as a class action.
We often see critics linking together private water companies and bottled water as jointly promoting “commodification” of the world’s water supplies. While the differences should be fairly obvious between investor-owned utilities and companies that provide design, construction, operations and maintenance services to governments, on the one hand, and companies that bottle, distribute and sell water to consumers, on the other, last week those differences were brought into clear focus.