Television personality Ruta Lee has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that advertising claims she made for three vitamin sprays and a stop-smoking spray were unsubstantiated. Lee made the claims on television's Home Shopping Club, commercial programming carried on the Home Shopping Network's broadcast and cable channels. Home Shopping Club programming reaches more than 60 million households, according to its annual report. The settlement would prohibit Lee and her company, Live-Lee Productions, Inc., from making claims for any food, dietary supplement or drug unless they have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support the claims.
According to the complaint detailing the charges against Lee and Live-Lee, Home Shopping Club produced and aired advertising called "Spotlight on Ruta Lee," during which Lee promoted and sold three vitamin spray products -- Life Way Vitamin C and Zinc Spray, Life Way Antioxidant Spray and Life Way Vitamin B-12 Spray -- and the smoking cessation spray, Smoke-Less Nutrient Spray.
Home Shopping Network, Inc., Home Shopping Club, Inc. and HSN Lifeway Health Products, Inc. were charged by the FTC in March 1995 with making unsubstantiated claims for the products, and an administrative trial is pending in that case.
Lee resides in Fort Worth, Texas, and her company is based in Los Angeles. According to the FTC complaint, Lee created the claims in the advertisments and received a royalty on the sale of the products. The FTC also alleged that the respondents did not have adequate evidence to support claims for the vitamin sprays that they are more fully absorbed by the body than vitamins in pill form. In addition, the FTC alleged, the advertisements represented, without adequate substantiation, that when used in recommended dosages, they:
- heal mouth lesions, cold sores and cracking of lip corners
- prevent colds, treat hangovers and increase energy;
- ensure proper immune system function, reduce risk of contracting infectious diseases and prevent facial lines.
The FTC complaint also alleged that Lee and Live-Lee made unsubstantiated claims that the smoking-cessation spray would enable users to stop smoking easily, regardless of how long or how much they had smoked, and that it satisfied the physiological urge to smoke and eliminated withdrawal symptoms. Finally, the FTC charged, Ruta Lee and Live-Lee knew or should have known that the claims were unsubstantiated.
The proposed consent agreement to settle the charges would prohibit Lee and Live-Lee Productions from making the claims challenged in the complaint for any food, dietary supplement or drug, unless they possess and rely upon competent and reliable scientific evidence that substantiates the claims. The proposed consent agreement would also require Lee and Live-Lee to have scientific substantiation for (a) any claim that a food, dietary supplement or drug would have any effect on the user's health, or on the structure or function of the body; or (b) any claim of performance, benefit, efficacy, or safety of any smoking cessation product, service or program. The settlement would not make Lee or Live-Lee liable for claims where they neither knew nor had reason to know that the substantiation for the claims was inadequate.
The Commission vote to announce the proposed consent agreement for public comment was 5-0. The proposed agreement will be published in the Federal Register shortly and will be subject to public comment for 60 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation (Lee--6/15/95)
of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $10,000.
Copies of complaint, consent and an analysis to aid public comment are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web Site at: http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC File No. 942 3058)