Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Seller, Beware. FTC Going after Dubious Product Claims

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Seller, Beware. FTC Going after Dubious Product Claims

Article excerpt

Prove it or pay up.

That's seems to be the watchword of federal and state regulators who have stepped up efforts recently to make marketers prove health claims for products ranging from bedbug treatments to cures for erectile dysfunction.

No longer is it enough to go after marketers whose products can hurt you.

The Federal Trade Commission is insisting that companies prove that their products provide the promised benefits.

In the past two months alone, the FTC has filed deceptive- advertising charges against or reached settlements with at least six companies, alleging that they failed to back up what the FTC called deceptive and overhyped health claims.

And more suits are likely, as the FTC has "a number of investigations under way," said Mary Engle, the agency's assistant director for advertising practices.

Going back to 1930, when the FTC brought its first false advertising suit against a weight-loss product, the commission has been going after deceptive advertisers who claim that "they have proven cures or treatment or remedies for your problems, and it's simply not true; they don't have proof to back up their claims," Engle said by phone last week.

The problem has only grown with the Internet making it easier for companies to reach more people than they could with print ads.

The biggest offenders are for weight-loss products, she said. Everyone knows you have to eat less and exercise more, but people look for a quick and easy way to lose weight and buy into these ads.

"Our investigations show that those shortcuts never work."

Among recent FTC actions:

* The agency alleges that advertisements for Rest Easy and Best Yet! -- promoted as natural remedies for bedbug infestations -- contained false claims that scientific studies prove the products' effectiveness. A settlement announced two weeks ago imposed a $264,976 judgment against the marketers of Rest Easy.

* Marketers of Best Yet! allegedly made false claims that the product was invented by the U.S. Army at the request of the Department of Agriculture and made unsupported claims that it was effective also in stopping and preventing head lice. The defendants have not settled, and the FTC is beginning litigation. …

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