According to the “Mad Men” stereotype, you could spot an old-school advertising agency executive by the tailored wardrobe and expense account lunch. A lot has changed in the ad game, but two truths remain: 1) More than 50 years of FTC cases establish that ad agencies may be liable for their role in deceptive campaigns; and 2) Companies that may not describe themselves as “ad agencies” may still be held responsible for illegal acts or practices. In other words, the FTC looks to the facts, not the grey flannel suit.
Blog Posts Tagged with Health Claims
If marketing claims are any indication, “green” paint is popular with consumers, but not just in the sense of emerald, mint, or avocado. Companies are advertising that their paints are emission-free, VOC-free, and without chemicals that could harm consumers, including pregnant women, babies, and people with asthma. Some brands even feature seals and certifications touting purported environmental benefits.
Is there a family or a workplace that hasn’t been touched in some way by the public health crisis of opiate addiction? It’s no wonder that advertisers are offering purported treatments. But an FTC settlement with a Texas-based business stands for the fundamental principle that companies’ health claims need the support of sound science.
Silence may be golden, but not when it comes to contract clauses that would muzzle consumer complaints. That’s one message from an FTC settlement with the makers of NutriMost weight-loss products. Here’s another: don’t make weight-loss claims without scientific evidence to back them.
Imagine a series of promotions that involve pain relief promises, cognition claims, endorsements, 30-minute radio ads, “risk-free” money-back guarantees, “free” trial offers, negative options, telemarketing, and upsells of buying club memberships. What could possibly go wrong for consumers?
Where would you like to start?
Fans of “Shark Tank” will remember it as one of the show’s most dramatic bidding wars. Charles Yim, CEO of Breathometer, pitched his smartphone-enabled breathalyzer as a way to “help people make smarter and safer decisions” about drinking and driving. All five sharks went for the product hook, line, and sinker. But according to the FTC, the defendants’ deceptive claims about the accuracy of the devices’ readings left consumers floundering.
Ads for Prevagen claimed that the purported memory improvement supplement is “The Name to Remember,” but according to a lawsuit filed by the FTC and the New York Attorney General, it’s a product consumers might be better off forgetting.
“Just like the white winged dove sings a song,” you can count on the BCP Business Blog to celebrate the “Edge of Seventeen” – 2017, of course – with a recap of in-case-you-missed-it developments from 2016. (Sorry, Stevie Nicks. That was a stretch.) In no particular order, here is our take on ten noteworthy consumer protection actions from the year gone by.
Is it time for a little heart-to-heart about making health claims for mobile apps? An FTC settlement with California-based Aura Labs challenges misleading representations the company made about its Instant Blood Pressure app. In addition, if you keep your finger on the pulse of FTC endorsement law, the complaint describes a course of conduct marketers will want to avoid.
The FTC applies a consistent approach to evaluating ad claims. Companies must have a reasonable basis for objective representations, including claims that a product can treat specific health conditions. Whether it’s an over-the-counter drug, dietary supplement, or food, the same established standards apply. And as an FTC Enforcement Policy Statement explains, that also holds true for OTC homeopathic drugs.
In an eye exam, the bottom line is the toughest to see. But responsible eye care prescribers and contact lens sellers clearly understand another “bottom line”: They comply with the FTC’s Contact Lens Rule.
As consumers age, they want to remain supple, as in limber, lithe, and flexible. Ads for the beverage Supple claimed the product would provide complete and long-lasting relief from joint pain and treat chronic pain caused by arthritis and fibromyalgia. But according to the FTC, the marketers of Supple were a little too flexible – with the facts, that is. The FTC’s lawsuit also challenges the independence of the doctor who endorsed the product.
Mosquitoes aren’t just another picnic pest. They can carry serious diseases running the gamut from A to Zika virus. And just as illness can follow when mosquitoes infest, consumer injury can follow when ads are deceptive. The FTC staff just sent 10 warning letters about anti-Zika claims for wristbands, patches, stickers, and the like, reminding recipients that representations must be backed by proper proof.
“It’s a dog’s life,” they say – and according to Mars Petcare, its Eukanuba brand of dog food could extend dogs’ lives by 30%. But the FTC alleges that Mars made misleading representations about the products’ life-extending benefits and falsely claimed that scientific tests supported what the company said.
For people struggling with opiate addiction – and the family and friends who love them – the claim that Elimidrol would let them “permanently overcome withdrawal – the first time” sounded like the miracle they’d been hoping for. But according to a lawsuit filed by FTC, it was just another broken promise.
Recently, the FTC sent hundreds of thousands of refund checks to people who bought the book The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About by pitchman Kevin Trudeau. Court decisions have established there wasn’t much truth in Mr. Trudeau’s advertising claims, but the story behind the law enforcement actions underscores one fundamental truth: the FTC’s commitment to effective order enforcement.
Short of jumping into the Tardis to consult with intergalactic medical experts, how can consumers separate the hope from the hype when evaluating claims for health products? That’s where SmartClick Media’s “Doctor Trusted” website certification program claimed to help. But an FTC lawsuit alleges that the “Doctor Trusted” seal and the “Doctor Trusted.org Consumer Protection Certificate” weren’t to be trusted.
We loved Scooby-Doo as much as the next person, but each episode seemed to end the same way. Just when Shaggy, Fred, Velma, and Daphne nabbed the culprit, he took off a mask to disclose his identity – or so we thought until he removed yet another mask to reveal who he really was.
What’s on consumers’ minds is what’s between their ears. A proposed settlement with LearningRx, a Colorado-based franchisor with more than 80 “brain training” centers across the country, and CEO Ken Gibson is the latest in a growing line of FTC cases challenging false and deceptive claims about improved cognition.
Seeing is believing. And last week, the FTC reminded eye doctors – in writing – about their legal responsibilities under the agency’s Eyeglass Rule. The rule requires you to provide a copy of the prescription to the patient at the end of the eye exam, even if the patient doesn’t request it. You should also not ask patients if they want their prescription. The prescription should be given to them automatically.