Television personality Ruta Lee and her production company Live-Lee Productions, Inc. have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the claims she made in infomercials for three vitamin sprays and a stop-smoking spray were unsubstan- tiated. Lee made the claims in "Spotlight on Ruta Lee" infomercials aired on the Home Shopping Network, whose Home Shopping Club programming reaches more than 60 million households, according to its annual report. The settlement would prohibit Lee and Live-Lee Productions from knowingly making claims that any food, dietary supplement or drug affects a user's health or body function unless they have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support the claims. The settlement also would require them to have scientific substantiation for claims they make about smoking-cessation products or programs.
Lee resides in Fort Worth, Texas, and her company is based in Los Angeles. According to the FTC complaint detailing the charges in this case, she created the claims in the infomercials and receives a royalty on sales of the products. This case follows charges the FTC filed against the Home Shopping Network, Inc. and two of its subsidiaries, including Home Shopping Club, which produced and aired the "Spotlight on Ruta Lee" programming. Both cases focus on claims Lee made in promoting and selling three vitamin spray products -- Life Way Vitamin C and Zinc Spray, Life Way Antioxidant Spray and Life Way Vitamin B-12 Spray -- and the smoking-cessation spray, Smoke-Less Nutrient Spray.
In its complaint against Lee and Live-Lee Productions, the FTC alleged that the respondents did not have adequate evidence to support claims that the vitamin sprays are more fully absorbed by the body than vitamins in pill form. In addition, the FTC alleged, the advertisements represented without adequate substantiation that, when used in recommended dosages, one or more of the sprays would:
- heal mouth lesions, cold sores, and cracking of lip corners, and prevent colds:
- treat hangovers and increase energy;
- ensure proper immune system functioning, reduce the risk of contracting infectious diseases and prevent facial lines.
The FTC complaint also alleged that Ruta Lee's claims that the smoking-cessation spray would enable users to stop smoking easily, regardless of how long or how much they had smoked, and that it would satisfy the physiological urge to smoke and eliminate certain withdrawal symptoms, were unsubstantiated. Finally, the FTC charged, Ruta Lee and Live Lee Productions knew or should have known that these claims were unsubstantiated.
The proposed consent agreement to settle the charges would prohibit Lee and Live-Lee Productions from making the challenged representations for any food, diet supplement or drug or for any stop-smoking product or program, unless they possess and rely upon competent and reliable scientific evidence that substantiates the claims. In addition, the settlement would require them to have scientific substantiation for claims that any food, dietary supplement or drug affects the user's health or the structure or function of the human body, and for claims regarding the performance, efficacy or safety of any stop-smoking product or service. The settlement would not make Lee and Live- Lee Productions liable for claims where they neither knew nor had reason to know that the substantiation for such claims was inadequate.
The Commission vote to announce the proposed consent agreement for public comment was 5-0. The proposed agreement will be published in the Federal Register shortly and will be subject to public comment for 60 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $10,000.
Copies of complaint, consent and an analysis to aid public comment are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC's NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web Site at: http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC File No. 942 3058)