Sporting goods companies: Guard against deception

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Some sports fans spend Saturdays on the field.  For the rest of us, raising a Big Foam Finger is exertion enough.  But we’ve all read stories about the dangers that head injuries pose to participants in contact sports.  That’s why the FTC is continuing to raise concerns about possibly unsubstantiated claims for products advertised to reduce the risk of sports concussions.

The FTC just finalized a settlement first announced in August against Pennsylvania-based Brain-Pad, Inc. and company president Joseph Manzo.  The lawsuit alleges they made deceptive claims that their mouthguards reduced the risk of concussions from lower jaw impacts, reduced the risk of concussions generally, and have been clinically proven to provide those benefits.  (In case you’re wondering if the FTC pays attention to the comments it receives about proposed settlements, we’ve also posted responses sent to people who commented on the Brain-Pad settlement.)

But the agency took the additional step of sending letters to 18 other sporting goods manufacturers, warning them that they may be making deceptive claims that their mouthguards, headbands, or other devices can reduce the risk of concussions.

The letters call the companies’ attention to the Brain-Pad settlement and urge them to review their advertising, packaging, labeling, and promotional materials to make sure they’re not making unsubstantiated performance or health benefit claims for their products.  FTC staff ask the companies to get back in touch with a description of the actions they’ve taken or plan to take to ensure compliance with the FTC Act.  The warning letters end with a, well, warning that “if you make claims about the performance or health benefits without adequate evidence to support those claims, the FTC may take action to enforce and seek redress for any violations of the FTC Act as the public interest may require.”

If you have a client in the sporting goods business — or if someone in your family plays contact sports — this is an issue you’ll want to follow.  Bookmark the Business Center's Health Claims site for resource materials about substantiation.


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