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Rina Raphael, Los Angeles Times
Claims about efficacy of supplements and undisclosed paid endorsers at issue.
The FTC’s recent lawsuit and settlement with a company that marketed brain boosting and joint healing supplements via radio infomercials disguised as talk and news shows serves as a reminder to consumers to be cautious about products peddled in fake media settings.
The FTC, along with the Office of the Maine Attorney General, filed a complaint against nine defendants, including XXL Impressions (dba Better Health Nutritionals), Ronald Jahner and Brazos Minshew, over the marketing of FlexiPrin and CogniPrin. Regulators alleged that they made false and misleading claims in ads that CogniPrin could, among other things, reverse mental decline and was clinically proven to improve memory, and that FlexiPrin could reduce back pain and inflammation in as little as two hours and was clinically proven to reduce the need for medication in 80 percent of users. Sales for the products topped $6 million between 2012-2015.
Jahner and Minshew promoted the products through 30-minute radio ads that were formatted to sound like educational talk and news shows. They were featured on the radio shows as medical experts who endorsed the products. Minshew was introduced on the radio show as Samuel Brant, a “brain scientist” and “past director of the Neurological Treatment Center for Tiena Health.”
But Minshew is not an actual expert on neurology or brain science as the show claimed and neither Minshew or Jahner actually examined the products, the complaint alleges. In addition, while Jahner was presented as an objective medical expert, the defendants failed to disclose that he received a percentage of revenues generated from sales of the products.
But wait, there’s more. In ads that also appeared in print, the company offered consumers a free trial without disclosing they’d have to enroll in a Recurring offers or subscriptions that continue to bill you until you take steps to shut down the account. These types of offers put the onus on the consumer to remember and to take action, allowing a company to keep gathering in cash from forgetful or busy customers. Be wary of these types of offers, and remember to stop services you no longer want. where they’d get billed monthly for repeated auto shipments. They also deceptively advertised that customers could try the products “risk free” for 30 days without clearly disclosing burdensome requirements to obtain refunds, including that customers would have only 14 days or less to try the product and that there were significant shipping charges, the complaint alleges. In addition, customers who responded to the ads were then up-sold other services such as memberships in buying clubs and discount medical programs where they incurred ongoing monthly fees that were not readily disclosed.
Three court orders resolved charges against six of the defendants. The orders bars them from making any future deceptive claims and bans them from a wide range of marketing practices.
For more of TINA.org coverage of infomercials disguised as news shows, click here.
Rina Raphael, Los Angeles Times
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