A federal district court has ordered the marketers of two dietary supplements – "Supreme Greens" and "Coral Calcium" – who claimed the products would cure ailments ranging from cancer and Parkinson’s disease to heart disease and autoimmune diseases to pay nearly $70 million for deceiving consumers about the products’ effectiveness and safety. The court also froze the assets of some of the defendants.
In July 2008, the court found that infomercial pitchman Donald W. Barrett and his affiliates deceptively touted the supplement Supreme Greens to treat, cure, or prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. Barrett also deceptively claimed that the product could cause dramatic weight loss and could safely be taken by children, pregnant women, and people on medication. In addition, Barrett marketed a second dietary supplement, Coral Calcium, which the court found he and the other defendants deceptively claimed could treat cancer, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases; could be absorbed in greater quantity and more quickly than other calcium products; and could be completely absorbed by the body. Barrett also wrongfully claimed that scientific research had proven calcium supplements could prevent, reverse, or cure cancer in humans.
The Federal Trade Commission charged Barrett, his associate Robert Maihos, and two
companies they control – Direct Marketing Concepts, Inc. and ITV Direct, Inc. – with making these unlawful claims regarding Supreme Greens and Coral Calcium, and with making unauthorized credit and debit charges. The FTC also charged three other defendants – Allen Stern and two companies he controls – with deceptively marketing Coral Calcium.
The court froze the assets of Barrett, Maihos, Direct Marketing Concepts, and ITV Direct and ordered them to pay $48.2 million for consumer refunds. The court also barred them from making deceptive claims about Supreme Greens and Coral Calcium; misrepresenting that scientific research validated their claims; making any health, performance, or efficacy claims about any food, drug, dietary supplement, cosmetic, or device unless such claims are true, non-misleading and substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence; failing to disclose that promotional programming is, in fact, a paid advertisement; and billing consumers or charging their credit or debit cards on an ongoing basis without their consent.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ordered Stern, King Media, Inc., and Triad ML Marketing, Inc. to pay $20.4 million for consumer refunds. The court barred them
from making deceptive claims about Coral Calcium; misrepresenting that scientific research validated their claims; and making any health, performance, or efficacy claims about any food, drug, dietary supplement, cosmetic, or device unless they are true, non-misleading, and substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
Copies of the court’s decisions and final orders 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 Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.
(FTC File No. 023 3138)
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