Fuel Savings, Environmental Claims Were Unsubstantiated; Testing Claims Were False
The marketers of the Super FuelMAX automotive fuel-line magnet, advertised as providing dramatic fuel-saving and emissions-reducing benefits, have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that their claims were unsubstantiated. The settlement would bar the Gadget Universe catalog and its CEO from misrepresenting the actual benefits or efficacy of any supposedly fuel-saving or emissions-reducing products for motor vehicles. It would also prohibit misrepresentations about testimonials, endorsements, tests, or research.
This case is the latest in a series of FTC law enforcement initiatives targeting unsubstantiated fuel economy and engine performance claims. The FTC previously halted allegedly deceptive advertising by the marketers of Dura Lube, Motor Up, Prolong, Valvoline, Slick 50, and STP engine treatments. Earlier this year, the agency sued Speedway Motorsports, Inc. and its Oil-Chem Research Corp. subsidiary to halt false and misleading advertising for zMax auto additives, including claims that zMax increases gas mileage by a minimum of 10 percent.
According to the FTC complaint, Esrim Ve Sheva Holding Corp., doing business as Gadget Universe, and its CEO, Alexander Elnekaveh, advertised and sold Super FuelMAX through catalog sales and on their Internet site. Advertising for the device claimed, "Here's one the big oil companies don't want you to know about," "SAVE UP TO 27% ON GAS," and "The Super FuelMAX . . . clamps onto my fuel line, and two powerful neodymium conductors use the scientific principal of magnetic resonance to give me better fuel burn. A certified EPA laboratory reports an amazing 27% in increased mileage and 42% reduction in harmful pollutants." Graphics in the ads showed unruly fuel molecules lining up in straight columns and
rows after passing through the Super FuelMAX. The FTC alleged that the ads misrepresented that Super FuelMAX:
- causes fuel molecules to line up in straight columns and rows;
- improves fuel burn through magnetic resonance;
- reduces fuel consumption;
- reduces fuel consumption by 27 percent or up to 27 percent;
- reduces harmful emissions or pollutants; and
- reduces harmful emissions or pollutants by 42 percent or up to 40 percent.
The FTC alleges that the respondents did not possess or rely on reasonable substantiation for the claims.
The complaint also alleges that the respondents falsely represented that tests performed at a certified EPA laboratory prove that Super FuelMAX:
- increases mileage by 27 percent; and
- reduces harmful pollutants by 42 percent.
Finally, the FTC charged that ads for Super FuelMAX featuring a testimonial from Alexander Elnekaveh endorsing the product did not reflect Elnekaveh's actual experience with the product or the typical or ordinary experience of members of the public who use the product. Therefore, the FTC complaint said, the representations concerning the testimonial were false or misleading.
The proposed settlement would bar the respondents from making unsubstantiated claims in connection with any fuel-saving or emission-reducing product for use in a motor vehicle. Specifically, the settlement bars unsubstantiated claims:
- about the effect of such products on fuel molecules, or the products' ability to improve fuel burn;
- that the product reduces fuel consumption or reduces fuel consumption by a specific amount;
- that the product reduces emissions or pollutants or reduces them by a specific amount; and
- about the benefits, performance or efficacy of such products.
The evidence required to substantiate such claims must be competent and reliable scientific evidence, when appropriate. The settlement would bar the respondents from misrepresenting that user testimonials or endorsements of the product reflect the actual and current opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences of the user. It also bars representations that any user testimonial represents the typical or ordinary experience consumers can expect unless the respondents possess and rely on competent and reliable scientific substantiation. Without scientific substantiation for a typicality claim, the respondents must disclose what the generally expected results would be, or disclose that consumers should not expect similar results. The settlement also prohibits misrepresentations about the existence, contents, validity, results, conclusions, or interpretations of any test, study, or research. Finally, the settlement contains certain record-keeping provisions to allow the FTC to monitor respondents' compliance with its provisions..
The Commission vote to accept the consent agreement and place it on the public record was 5-0. A summary of the proposed consent agreement will be published in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, until December 8, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, 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 of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $11,000.
For more information on purported gas-saving products and tips to improve fuel efficiency, see the FTC's consumer publication titled, "Gas-Saving Products: Facts or Fuelishness?" at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/autos/aut10.shtm.
The FTC also has a new "Energy & Environment" web page, at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/eande/index.html. This web page links to information about "Fuels & Automotive Products," including information about FTC enforcement actions and related business and consumer education materials.
Copies of the complaint and settlement are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov.The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
(FTC File No. 012 3116)
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