The high price of hygiene: Montreal woman wants to fight 'pink tax' in court

Should a woman have to pay more than a man for her stick of deodorant or bottle of floral-scented shampoo? One Montrealer doesn’t think so, and she is trying to launch a lawsuit against the companies that do.

Discriminatory practice sees women made to pay more than men for personal care products, lawyer says

A Montreal woman wants companies to stop making women pay more for personal care products, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the 'pink tax.' (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Should a woman have to pay more than a man for her stick of deodorant or floral-scented shampoo?

One Montrealer doesn't think so, and she is trying to launch a lawsuit against the companies that do.

Aviva Maxwell has six brothers and sometimes makes trips to the pharmacy with them.

She says she recently realized the deodorant she buys is smaller than men's deodorant, but costs more.

It's a phenomenon that has been dubbed the "pink tax," and it also applies to products that are marketed toward female consumers with more stereotypically "female-friendly" scents, such as soap, shampoo and shaving cream.

Maxwell is the plaintiff in a motion to authorize a class action lawsuit against a company that makes the products and the retailers that sell them, filed in Quebec Superior Court Tuesday.

The motion names Unilever Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart, Jean Coutu, Uniprix, Métro, Loblaws, Walmart and Familiprix as defendants.

Discriminatory practice, lawyer says

Maxwell's lawyer Michael Simkin said the "pink tax" is a commercial practice that is discriminatory toward women because unless a shopper makes careful comparisons, they wouldn't necessarily notice the difference in size or price between the products, or even have a choice over what they want to buy.

"The fact this affects so many people – everybody buys shampoo on a monthly basis, every two months, toothpastes, all of these different products, and yet how they continue to differentiate based on the sex of the consumer is amazing," he said.

While some say women should just buy men's products if they have a problem with the price, Maxwell said that takes away her freedom of choice.

"If it is basically the same product and I have a preference, and I'm allowed to have a preference . . . why do I have to pay more for my preference?" she said.

Apart from raising awareness, Maxwell and her lawyers are hoping the suit will get companies to recognize there's a problem and not treat male and female customers differently.

It could take up to a year for the lawsuit to be authorized.

with files from CBC's Homerun

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