At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a federal court issued a temporary restraining order against marketers of oral sprays that supposedly contain human growth hormone (HGH) to stop them from making alleged false and deceptive claims and from sending illegal spam. The temporary restraining order also freezes the defendants’ assets. The FTC charged that the sprays, marketed on dozens of Web sites and through spam, do not cause weight loss, reverse the aging process, or prevent or treat diseases as advertised.
The FTC alleged in a complaint that the sprays do not contain HGH or cause the body to produce it. The complaint charged that the defendants made false and deceptive product claims, misrepresented the security of their online ordering pages, and sent hundreds of thousands of illegal spam messages advertising the sprays. The defendants are Pacific Herbal Sciences, Inc. and its president, John A. Brackett, Jr., and Natural Health Product, Inc. and New Star Marketing Group, Inc. and their president, Lei Lu, also known as Lei Li, also doing business as IE Marketing, Inc.
According to the FTC complaint, the advertisements for “HGH Revolution” and “Natural Rejuvenator HGH-R” made incredible claims such as:
“LOSE WEIGHT WHILE YOU SLEEP without DIETING or EXERCISE”
“Experience up to an 82% IMPROVEMENT in body fat loss while erasing 10 YEARS in 10 WEEKS!”
The marketing pitches for the sprays referred to clinical studies and prestigious publications to give credibility to their claims.
In its complaint, the FTC alleged the defendants made false claims about their products, lacked substantiation for those claims, and falsely stated that scientific studies validate their claims. Specifically, the defendants’ ads made false or misleading claims that the sprays:
The defendants also claimed their Web site ordering pages were secure, saying, “NOTE: To ensure your personal privacy, all of the information that you submit to us after this point will be secured using SSL encryption technology.” The FTC charged that the Web sites were not, in fact, encrypted, and consumer information transmitted was not secure.
The FTC alleged that the defendants drove traffic to their Web sites through spam, sent by marketers they paid. Consumers forwarded more than 200,000 of these e-mails to the FTC in 18 months. The FTC’s complaint contends that much of the defendants’ email violated the CAN-SPAM Act by using falsified headers and deceptive subject headings; leaving out an Internet-based mechanism to opt-out of receiving future e-mails; and omitting required information, including the sender’s physical postal address, identification of the e-mail as an advertisement or solicitation, and an opportunity to decline receiving further e-mails from the sender.
The FTC is seeking a permanent ban on the defendants’ false and misleading claims and illegal spam, as well as money back for consumers.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 4-0. The complaint was filed under seal in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on October 6, with an ex parte temporary restraining order and asset freeze granted on the same day.
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. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint 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 in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), 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.