Court Backs FTC, Cites "Complete Absence of Support" for Vast Majority of Health Claims
A federal appeals court in Boston has upheld a decision in favor of the Federal Trade Commission that orders marketers of dietary supplements to pay $48.2 million for deceiving the public with phony health claims for their “Supreme Greens” and “Coral Calcium” dietary supplements. Infomercial pitchman Donald W. Barrett and his associates had touted the supplements as a cure for ailments ranging from cancer and Parkinson’s disease to heart disease and autoimmune diseases. Barrett, co-defendant Robert Maihos, and their two companies had appealed a lower court decision in favor of the FTC, which charged the defendants with deceptive advertising.
“Despite the volume of the Defendants’ arguments, we find no more substance in them than the district court found in their infomercials,” wrote U.S. Court of Appeals First Circuit Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson. The appellate court rejected all the marketers’ arguments for overturning the ruling and affirmed the lower court’s conclusion that evidence to support their health claims for the supplements was “woefully inadequate.” The appellate court concluded that the district court’s monetary remedy appropriately ordered “the Defendants to cure their customers in a way that their bogus supplements could not.”
In July 2008, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts found that Barrett and his associates deceptively claimed Supreme Greens and Coral Calcium could treat, cure, or prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and a variety of other diseases.
The district court issued its final order in August 2009, requiring Barrett, Maihos, and their two companies – Direct Marketing Concepts, Inc. and ITV Direct, Inc. – to pay $48.2 million. The district court also barred them from making deceptive claims about Supreme Greens and Coral Calcium; misrepresenting that scientific research validated their claims; making any health, performance, or efficacy claims about any food, drug, dietary supplement, cosmetic, or device unless such claims are true, non-misleading and substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence; failing to disclose that promotional programming is, in fact, a paid advertisement; and billing consumers or charging their credit or debit cards on an ongoing basis without their consent.
Copies of the court’s decisions and final orders 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 Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.
(DMC Circuit NR.wpd)
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection
Bureau of Consumer Protection