The staff of the Federal Trade Commission's Division of Enforcement and the Western Regional Office today announced that they conducted a "surf" of 28 Internet sites that advertise head lice treatment products. The FTC staff found that many of the sites advertising over-the-counter (OTC) lice treatment products make explicit claims about their products' efficacy and health benefits. The surf identified sites that may not be in compliance with the FTC Act, which prohibits deceptive advertising.
Playing on parents' concern at discovering a lice infestation, and frustration at store-bought remedies that entail time-consuming application, some sites claim that their lice treatment products are "100% effective in killing lice and their eggs," "create an environment where lice can't survive," or "eliminate the need for combing." Staff sent warnings stating that health and efficacy claims must be supported by scientific evidence. The FTC staff urged site sponsors to examine their claims and warned that if they misrepresented the benefits of their products, or if their claims were not properly substantiated, they may be subject to legal action.
With increased access to the Internet for health tips and remedies, FTC staff warns parents to exercise caution before purchasing products that might not be suitable for use on their child's hair, or might not be effective in eradicating a lice infestation. The FTC advises consumers who want to use the Internet to find health information to access www.consumer.gov, the federal gateway for consumer information. It provides specific resources to educate people about fraud and how to find and evaluate information on the Web.
The FTC previously brought law enforcement actions against three companies who allegedly deceptively advertised OTC lice treatment products. The actions against Del Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Pfizer, Inc., and Care Technologies, Inc. were settled by consent order in late 1998. Staff will continue to monitor online and other advertising of OTC lice treatment products to ensure that claims made to consumers are not deceptive.
Copies of the news releases and documents pertaining to the previous lice cases (see news releases dated Sept. 18, 1998 and Dec. 23, 1998) 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; 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.