Staff of the Federal Trade Commission has sent letters to five major retailers, alerting them to concerns about whether there is adequate substantiation for concussion-protection claims made for athletic mouthguards sold on their web sites.
“Given all of the news reports in the past few years about concussions, retailers should be vigilant in reviewing claims made for products they are selling for young athletes,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
According to the letters, making an objective claim for a product without a reasonable basis to support the claim is deceptive, and “competent and reliable” scientific evidence is generally needed to substantiate health-related claims. The letters point out that retailers, as well as product manufacturers, can be liable for violating the FTC Act if they disseminate false or unsubstantiated claims.
Each letter identifies a mouthguard on the retailer’s website for which a concussion protection claim is made. The letter then discusses the FTC’s 2012 case against mouthguard manufacturer Brain-Pad Inc., and recommends that the retailer review its website to ensure that it is not making unsupported concussion protection claims. The letter also suggests that the retailer contact the product manufacturer to inquire about the substantiation for concussion protection claims, and says that the staff plans to revisit their website in 90 days.
This is the third set of warning letters the FTC has sent regarding concussion protection claims. In November 2012, after the order in the Brain-Pad case became final, agency staff sent out warning letters to 18 other manufacturers of sports equipment, advising them of the Brain-Pad settlement and warning them that they might be making deceptive concussion protection claims for their products. Letters to almost a dozen additional manufacturers were subsequently sent out over the next 18 months.
The FTC also testified before a Congressional subcommittee last May, noting that as awareness of the danger of concussions has grown, manufacturers have started making concussion-protection claims for an increasing array of sports-related products.
For more information about concussions, see: Concussion and Mild Brain Traumatic Injury on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The FTC is a member of the National Prevention Council, which provides coordination and leadership at the federal level regarding prevention, wellness, and health promotion practices. These letters advance the National Prevention Strategy’s goal of increasing the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life.
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Mitchell J. Katz,
Office of Public Affairs
Shira D. Modell,
Bureau of Consumer Protection