The FTC’s fight against the deceptive marketing of unproven cancer treatments goes back to the early days of the agency, and it’s disappointing that we still need to bring cases of that nature. But you can add the FTC’s settlement with Florida-based CellMark Biopharma and CEO Derek Vest to that list – and the deceptive claims they pitched to people battling cancer are particularly disconcerting.
Blog Posts Tagged with Health Claims
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.
Mark March 7, 2018, on your calendar. That’s when the FTC is putting its Contact Lens Rule under the lens at a public workshop in Washington, DC.
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.”
Like Alanis Morissette’s “rain on your wedding day” or “a free ride when you’ve already paid,” the FTC’s lawsuit against Florida’s NextGen Nutritionals, LLC, Anna McLean, Robert McLean, and related companies – in addition to challenging a number of claims as false or deceptive – includes three allegations that could be characterized as ironic.
Online news reports appeared to feature the miraculous results celebrities like Will Ferrell and Paula Deen achieved from muscle-building supplements, weight loss products, and other merchandise. But according to the FTC, those “news reports” were deceptively formatted ads and the claims about “miraculous” results were false or misleading. And those weren’t the only secrets hidden within the promotions.
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.
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.