The Federal Trade Commission has given final approval to a consent agreement with Nature's Bounty, Inc. and two of its wholly-owned subsidiaries, settling charges that they made deceptive weight-loss, body building, disease treatment or other health-related claims for 26 nutrient supplements they marketed. The Commission's action makes the consent order provisions binding on the respondents.
Nature's Bounty, Inc., and its subsidiaries, Puritan's Pride, Inc., and Vitamin World, Inc., are all based in Bohemia, New York.
The FTC complaint challenges claims for the products that were made in mail order catalogs, some published jointly by Puritan's Pride and General Nutrition Centers (which also has been the subject of FTC law-enforcement action for nutrient supplement claims) and others published solely by Puritan's Pride, as well as in promotional materials distributed at Vitamin World retail stores. The FTC also charged that the respondents' use of the names Sleeper's Diet, Memory Booster, Dark Circle Eye Treatment, and Super Fat Burners was deceptive because the names made representations about the products that the respondents could not substantiate.
The final order requires Nature's Bounty and its sub- sidiaries to pay $250,000 to the Commission for possible use for consumer redress. The order prohibits the respondents from making those claims that were challenged in the complaint as false, and requires them to have substantiation for specific health-related representations they make in advertising and promoting any product in the future. Examples of representations for which the respondents are required to have scientific sub- stantiation include advertising and promotional claims that any product cures or treats any disease or relieves its symptoms, provides any weight loss benefit, stimulates metabolism, promotes greater muscular development or endurance, improves mental com- prehension, aids digestion, relieves stress, or prevents or treats fatigue.
Finally, the order prohibits the respondents from deceptively using the product names Sleeper's Diet, Memory Booster, Dark Circle Eye Treatment, or Super Fat Burners.
The consent agreement was announced for a public-comment period on April 27, 1995. The Commission vote to issue it in final form occurred on July 21, and was 4-1, with Commissioner Mary L. Azcuenaga dissenting. In her statement, Commissioner Azcuenaga said that she was dissenting from the Commission's decision to approve issuance of a decision and order with Nature's Bounty and its subsidiaries because the order leaves the respondents free to sell products they know or should have known were deceptively labeled. "I believe that the order should hold the respondents liable if they know, or should know, that the labels or packaging of any such product contains false or unsubstantiated claims," Azcuenaga said.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute 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 by the respon- dents. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
A news release summarizing the complaint and consent agree- ment was issued at the time the Commission accepted the consent agreement for public comment. Copies of that release, the complaint and final order, and Commissioner Azcuenaga's dis- senting statement are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC's NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. 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. 932 3224)
(FTC Docket No. C-3593)