A group of bottled water drinkers have brought a class action lawsuit against the company behind Poland Spring, alleging that the ME business has long deceived consumers by mislabeling common groundwater.
Nestle SA's Poland Spring Water unit has duped American consumers into paying premium prices for ordinary ground water that's pumped from some of Maine's most populated areas, rather than from natural springs as the company advertises, according to a lawsuit.
A Nestle Waters representative says the water meets all relevant federal and state regulations for spring water.
The suit, filed by 11 consumers in Connecticut District Court earlier this week, alleges none of Poland Spring's water comes from an actual spring, despite promises on the packaging.
But the 325-page lawsuit, which was filed by lawyers from four firms, claims that none of the company's ME water sources meets the federal definition for spring water and that the company has "politically compromised" state regulators.
Nestle has also had trouble in other areas of the USA, as bottled water out sells soda as the most popular drink in the United States and as it searches for other new sources of water.
This is not the first time that Nestle Waters has faced such allegations.
Nestle in North America distributes or bottles 15 different water brands including Deer Park, Arrowhead, Montclair and Ice Mountain, shows a fact sheet for the company on its official website.
The legal complaint, filed Tuesday, claims that Nestle is instead simply bottling common groundwater that doesn't qualify as spring water.
Poland Spring Water revenue nationwide was about $400 million in 2007 and has ranged from $300 million to $900 million annually for each of the past nine years.
This does not comply with FDA regulations that say the water must either come from a spring or be siphoned off from the well that supplies that spring, the suit says.
"The claims made in the lawsuit are without merit", said a spokesperson for Nestle Waters.
"I know that the water they're drawing from here in Poland, to the best of my knowledge, is truly spring water", he said.
It also says that "The "spring" Defendant now claims exists in Poland Spring is at the bottom of a lake".
Nestle did not admit fault, but agreed to pay $10 million in charity discounts and donations over the next five years. The company posted a response on its official website to the suit.
The plaintiffs call it marketing fraud, which enables Nestle to sell its water more cheaply than competitors in the spring-water market, but charge more than those in the purified-water market.
It alleges that the water in the bottled labeled as Poland Spring water is not collected from any pristine forest or mountain springs as images on the labels would imply. According to the suit, the 11 people spent thousands of dollars on Poland Spring in the past few years and are seeking $5 million in damages for a national class. They requested a jury trial.