Company and Owner to Pay $375,000 to Settle Charges
A Florida business and its owner, who marketed purported height-enhancing pills for kids and young adults, will pay $375,000 to settle charges that their advertising claims were deceptive. The Federal Trade Commission charged the defendants with making false and unsubstantiated claims for HeightMax, as well as for two other supplements, Liposan Ultra Chitosan Fat Blocker and Osteo-Vite.
The operation advertised HeightMax dietary supplements in English and Spanish on the Internet and radio. Ads also appeared in the back pages of magazines such as Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and Maxim. The FTC complaint charged that claims for the pills were unsubstantiated or false and that the defendants invented William Thomson, a supposed expert who appeared in the ads. According to the complaint, the ads for HeightMax Concentrate and HeightMax Plus misrepresented that:
- HeightMax increases height in users ages 12-25 over what they would achieve without the product;
- HeightMax causes users to grow an additional 2 to 3 inches in 6 months;
- Clinical tests prove that:
- HeightMax increases the height of teenagers and young adults; and
- Regular use of HeightMax for 6 months causes a 10% to 25% gain in height, and use for more than a year causes a 20% to 35% gain in height;
- HeightMax increases lean body mass and reduces body fat in users ages 12-25; and
- William Thomson, an expert with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, created HeightMax after years of research and clinical trials.
The FTC complaint also alleged that the defendants made unsubstantiated or false claims for Liposan Ultra Chitosan Fat Blocker, a weight loss supplement, and Osteo-Vite, marketed to older consumers for bone-building.
To settle the charges, defendants Sunny Health Nutrition Technology & Products, Inc. and its owner, Sunny Sia, will pay $375,000 in consumer redress. The settlement also holds the defendants potentially liable for $1.9 million in the event that they misrepresented their finances. The order to settle the FTC’s charges requires that claims for any dietary supplement, food, or drug must be true, non-misleading, and substantiated. In addition, it prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting endorsements, including the existence or expertise of any endorser.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint and stipulated final order was 5-0. The complaint and stipulated final order for permanent injunction were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
NOTE: This stipulated final order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. A stipulated final order requires approval by the court and has the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the complaint and stipulated final order 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 in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), 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/ftc/complaint.htm. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
(CIV No. 8:06-CV-2193-T-24EAJ)
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