National

Kanebo called victims of its defective skin-whitening products 'minefields'

Kyodo

Kanebo Cosmetics Inc. referred to customers who developed blotches on their skin after using its skin-whitening cosmetics as “minefields” during a meeting last year on how to deal with possible damages suits against the company, sources said Friday.

The expression insulting victims of the company’s defective products drew an immediate backlash and may affect damages suits filed in district courts in Tokyo and Shizuoka and Hiroshima prefectures.

The term was used in written material distributed at an executive meeting of Kanebo branch offices in central Japan on Aug. 2, 2013, a month after the company announced it was recalling products containing Rhododenol, a chemical brightening ingredient.

Users developed white blotches on their face and hands.

The written material described the victims as “damages claim minefields,” adding, “We don’t have a clue where (they) might appear.”

It also described the company’s inability to deal with inquiries from concerned users in the early days of the scandal as like being infected with a “consumer virus.”

A 50-year-old plaintiff in Shizuoka said, “I was stunned” by the company’s use of the word “minefield.” “We are the victims, but Kanebo may be thinking that they are being bullied,” the plaintiff said

Kanebo issued an apology.

“We deeply regret the inadequate expression that goes against the company’s policy of sincerely dealing with customers who developed symptoms,” the company said in a statement. “We will strictly reprimand those involved.”