FTC Alleges That the Companies Made False and Unsubstantiated Claims for Their Cell Phone Radiation Protection Devices
Two New York-based companies that marketed devices that purport to block harmful radiation from cell phones or video display units (VDUs) have agreed to pay $85,000 for consumer redress to settle Federal Trade Commission charges. Tecnozone International, LLC, Tecnozone America, LLC, and their principals advertised that their “Tecno AO protectors” provide substantial protection to consumers from electromagnetic energy emitted from cell phones and video display units. The defendants also claimed that the effectiveness of their devices have been validated by studies at major European Universities. The FTC alleged that the defendants’ claims were false and unsubstantiated. In addition to paying redress, the settlement with the FTC prohibits the defendants from making any claims about a product’s ability to reduce exposure to, or prevent penetration of, electromagnetic energy unless the claims are true and they have competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate such claims.
In addition to Tecnozone International and Tecnozone America, the FTC’s complaint names Marvin Jemal, Stephen Jemal, and Jacob Dresdner. According to the Commission, the defendants advertised and sold two “Tecno AO” devices – one for cell phones and one for video display units – to consumers nationwide over the Internet, and through radio, print, and television ads. The “Tecno AO” device for cell phones is a small almond-shaped device designed to fit to any flat surface on a cell phone. The device sold for $49.99. The Tecno AO for VDUs is a seven inch long metallic-looking device designed to be placed on a video display unit, typically a television or computer monitor, and sold for $99.95. The companies allegedly claimed that the devices substantially protect consumers from electromagnetic energy emitted by cellular telephones and video display unit radiation. To induce consumers to purchase these devices, the defendants’ ads contained statements such as:
- Do you or your children sit in front of a computer monitor? Do you or your children play video games or watch television? Do you use a cell phone?
- If the answer is yes, you need TECNO AO PROTECTORS now!
- Why? Because scientific studies have shown that exposure to electromagnetic radiation from cell phones, computer monitors, television and video game screens can cause eye damage, head, neck and back aches, anxiety, insomnia and memory loss. It has also been linked to cancers and brain tumors.
- Tecno AO protectors create a zone of biocompatability between you and your electronic devices. Internationally patented, its effectiveness has been validated by studies at major European Universities.
- TecnoZone, the only solution to electromagnetic pollution.
The FTC alleged that the defendants’ claims that their devices substantially protect consumers from electronmagnetic energy emitted by cell phones and from VDU radiation are false and unsubstantiated. The complaint further alleged that the defendants’ claims that scientific testing proves that their devices work are false and unsubstantiated.
The proposed stipulated judgment and order to settle the FTC charges prohibits the defendants from:
- Making any representation about a product’s ability to reduce exposure to, prevent absorption of, mitigate the effects of, or prevent penetration of electromagnetic energy or other fields from any cellular or cordless telephone, microwave oven, computer monitor, television, or any other product, equipment, or appliances, unless the representation is true, and the defendants have competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate the representation;
- Making any representation about the benefits, performance, or efficacy of such product or service, unless the representation is true, and the defendants have competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate the representation; and
- Misrepresenting the existence, contents, validity, results, conclusions, or interpretations of any test, study, or research.
The settlement requires the defendants to pay $85,000 in consumer redress. The settlement contains an avalanche clause that would make the entire $120,884 judgment due if the defendants do not make the required payments within 90 days after the entry of the consent order.
Finally, the settlement contains various recordkeeping requirements to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants’ compliance.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint and stipulated final order for permanent injunction was 5-0. They were filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, on November 14, 2003. The stipulated final order requires the court’s approval.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law.
NOTE: This stipulated final order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated final orders have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the complaint and the stipulated final order are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1 877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov . The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Office of Public Affairs
Barbara Anthony or Ronald Waldman
FTC Northeast Region - New York