The FTC and FDA just sent warning letters to four sellers of e-liquids, the nicotine-laced liquid used in vaping. But even if you don’t have clients in that industry, keep reading. The letters have a lot to say about social media marketing and influencers, regardless of the products they pitch.
Blog Posts Tagged with Endorsements
Moon Unit Zappa’s 1982 song “Valley Girl” popularized the phrase “gag me with a spoon.” We doubt the lyric “gag me with a form contract clause” would have been a hit, but it’s among the tactics expressly outlawed by the Consumer Review Fairness Act. As two proposed settlements demonstrate, the FTC thinks gag clauses and similar non-disparagement provisions that violate the CRFA are – to quote Ms. Zappa – grody to the max.
Their lines of work are as different as can be: an HVAC and electrical contractor, a flooring seller, and a company that takes people on horseback rides. But according to the FTC, they have one thing in common. They all violated the Consumer Review Fairness Act. Read on for details about the FTC’s first cases solely enforcing the CRFA, the form contract provisions the FTC says contravened the law, and tips for keeping your contracts CRFA-compliant.
“Viagra for the brain.” It’s a slogan designed to attract the attention of consumers concerned about cognition. Then there was a massive online ad campaign of “news” websites featuring supposed testimonials from people like Bill Gates and the now-late Dr. Stephen Hawking. It’s no wonder people forked over millions for supplements that went by names like Geniux, Xcel, EVO, and Ion-Z.
Is there anything you can’t get delivered to your front door? (And yes, home renovators will attest you can even get a front door delivered to your front door.) The burgeoning subscription model can offer convenience to customers, but only if companies honor established consumer protection principles.
In explaining FTC cases, we try to give readers a behind-the-scenes perspective and sometimes the most accurate insights are out of the mouths of corporate insiders. In the FTC’s first case challenging fabricated reviews on an independent retail site, consider an email from the CEO of Brooklyn-based Cure Encapsulations about a weight loss pill it was selling.
The name of the case is FTC v. Fat Giraffe Marketing Group, but the lawsuit has nothing to do with obesity, giraffes, or obese giraffes. OK, perhaps there are some similarities in the sense that the defendants made oversized claims, told tales as tall as tree-topping ungulates, and used protective coloration – in this case, bogus endorsements – to camouflage what they were up to.
Steely Dan may be one of the best duos of the rock era. (Sorry, Donnie and Marie fans.) Their song “Hey Nineteen” reminds us to mention some FTC consumer protection developments that could be of interest to your company or clients in 2019. As “Any Major Dude Will Tell You,” when you’re “Reelin’ in the Years” – or at least recapping the past one – consider this non-exhaustive and in-no-particular-order case compilation.
Archeologists report that the first mention of diabetes was in a papyrus excavated from an Egyptian tomb. Roll the scroll out a bit and it wouldn’t surprise us to find an ad (in hieroglyphics, of course) for a pill or potion promising a miracle treatment. Questionable diabetes products have been around for centuries and the latest one to attract law enforcement attention is a dietary supplement called Nobetes.
It started as one of those “run it up the flagpole” ideas to enlist big-name gymnasts to promote a brand of mosquito repellent just as news stories about the 2016 Brazil Olympics were sounding warnings about the Zika virus. Public relations firm Creaxion Corporation and specialty sports magazine publisher Inside Publications used a variety of digital strategies on behalf of the brand: athlete endorsements, social media posts, “advertorials,” and consumer reviews.
In the annals of film, Citizen Kane, The Godfather, and Casablanca are among our top picks. But don’t expect our list to include TBX-FREE, Eupepsia Thin, or Prolongz, dissolving strips of film the FTC says California-based Redwood Scientific deceptively advertised for smoking cessation, weight loss, and male sexual performance.
When the FTC warns consumers about government imposter scams, we’re usually referring to bogus calls that falsely claim to come from the IRS or some other official office. But as a case just announced by the FTC demonstrates, that’s not the only kind of false government affiliation that can deceive consumers.
Mosquitoes don’t just bug us. A big concern is their penchant for passing along pernicious diseases, including the Zika virus. New Jersey-based Aromaflage claimed its sprays and candles were effective at repelling mosquitoes – including ones that spread serious illnesses – and repelled mosquitoes as effectively as 25% DEET. The FTC alleges those representations were false or misleading.
Who among us wouldn’t want to turn back the hands of time? But don’t try to summon the spirit of Ponce de León just yet. According to the FTC, anti-aging claims for TA-65MD and TA-for 65 Skin lacked scientific substantiation. In addition, the FTC challenged the company’s use of consumer endorsements and alleged that it falsely represented that a paid-for segment touting its products on The Suzanne Show was independent programming.
We haven’t tried bullhorns or signal flares yet, but aside from that, it’s tough to imagine a tactic the FTC hasn’t taken to warn businesses about the risks of involving themselves in deceptive weight loss promotions.
As the saying goes, some people wear their hearts on their sleeve. And many consumers who feel strongly that “American Made Matters” wear their hearts on their head.
So you’ve received a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) from the Federal Trade Commission related to a consumer protection matter. Now what? We appreciate that it can be daunting for any company – especially a small business – and we want to be as transparent as possible about the process.
You’ve seen the sentence in FTC news releases or blog posts: “The order includes a $__ million financial remedy.” So how do provisions like that translate into real help for real consumers? That’s the subject of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Office of Claims and Refunds Annual Report.
One Direction had a hit with a song called “18,” but the FTC’s recent law enforcement and policy initiatives suggest that the agency will continue to pursue many directions in its efforts to protect consumers in ‘18. (Sorry. We’re expecting a fresh shipment of pop culture references in January.) In case you missed them – and in no particular order – here are ten FTC consumer protection topics of note from 2017.
The “before” photo showed a silver-haired lady in a wheelchair with a hand on her furrowed brow. “24 hours after” and she’s smiling and knitting on the sofa, thanks to a dietary supplement proven in a 1200-person clinical study to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of joint pain, hypertension, diabetes, and depression. And how’s this for a bonus? Users can “easily lose between 8-13 lbs. per week.”