Blog’s Year in Review 2017

When it came to keeping ads honest in 2017, was plenty busy.

| Bonnie Patten’s fifth year was a resounding success on multiple fronts. Below is a rundown of what we accomplished in 2017. (Click each title to see more.)

140+ Legal Actions

This year, more than 140 companies were the subject of legal actions, which breaks down as follows: nine complaints filed with the FTC and/or state attorneys general; one complaint filed with the Direct Selling Association (DSA); 134 notification letters sent to DSA member companies regarding their and/or their distributors’ use of unsubstantiated income claims; two warning letters to companies that then took immediate corrective measures; and one amicus brief opposing an unfair false advertising settlement in federal court.  

In addition to these actions, 2017 also brought about many changes as a result of’s legal efforts. Retail giant Target cleaned up its act regarding Made in USA misrepresentations on its website; children’s toy company Step2 suspended its misleading Made in USA marketing campaign; Arizona-based multilevel marketing (Multilevel Marketing – a way of distributing products or services in which the distributors earn income from their own retail sales and from retail sales made by their direct and indirect recruits.) company Plexus Worldwide deleted more than 80 deceptive company videos featuring illegal income claims; and dozens of MLM companies removed inappropriate health and disease-treatment claims from the internet.  

Prior efforts also resulted in two other important 2017 actions: the Utah Division of Consumer Protection obtained more than $40,000 in fines from e-cigarette company O2Pur as well as full refunds to eligible consumers; and the United States Supreme Court decided to refrain from reviewing an important ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed class certification in a pyramid scheme case against Stream Energy.

Here is a roundup of’s 2017 legal actions:

140 Ad Alerts

Reader submissions kept rolling in this year with many marketing complaints about car dealerships, cable services, Multilevel Marketing – a way of distributing products or services in which the distributors earn income from their own retail sales and from retail sales made by their direct and indirect recruits. companies, cellphone service providers and undisclosed ads on social media. Numerous consumer tips were turned into ad alerts, which, in 2017, were viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

Top 10 Ad Alerts

  1. SomaBiotix
  2. U-Haul
  3. O2Pur
  4. NuBiotix
  5. Balance of Nature
  6. MyPillow
  7. Healthy Man
  8. Marley Drug
  9. CLA Safflower Oil
  10. Health Sciences Institute

Top 10 Ad Alerts Published in 2017

  1. Health Sciences Institute
  2. Femora Anti Aging Face Cream
  3. Medicare Coverage Helpline
  4. iFit Coach Membership
  5. Agora Financial
  6. Fit Tea
  7. Solar Eclipse Glasses on Amazon
  8. Goop
  9. Goldreallas XXX
  10. BioX4

110+ Consumer News and Blog Posts

On the consumer news front, 2017 saw the debut of a new TINA’s Take feature in which we broke down the news of the day in terms of the false and deceptive advertising implications; a number of Ad or Not stories featuring the Influencer in Chief; and several articles on pyramid scheme lawsuits against, among others, Nerium, Jeunesse and LuLaRoe. Popular blogs in 2017 included a discussion on what constitutes “breaking news” in an age where every network touts its coverage as a selling point to viewers and multiple informative posts by expert contributors.

350 New False Advertising Class Actions

We tracked more than 350 federal class actions filed in 2017 (and continue to track about 2,000 class actions altogether) alleging false advertising or deceptive marketing. Trending this year were complaints alleging:

  • “Natural” products – including foods, cosmetics and cleaning products – that contain unnatural ingredients
  • Advertised discounts that don’t add up
  • Packages that contain more empty space than actual product (aka You know when you buy a big bag of chips, and you’re all psyched for a feast, and then it turns out there are like, three chips in the bag? That bag is slack filled. packaging)
  • Pyramid schemes disguised as MLM companies
  • Truffle oils flavored with chemicals instead of real truffles
  • Cold-pressed beverages that are processed after being cold pressed  

Social Media/Search Advocacy Campaigns

In 2017, made use of our social media platforms to not only educate and inform consumers about false and deceptive advertising but also to interact and connect with our followers. Increasingly, our followers are submitting tips and complaints through social media, sometimes alerting us to problematic ads in real time. Through a dozen different social media campaigns, we informed consumers on a wide range of issues including unsubstantiated MLM health and income claims, DealDash’s illegal gambling platform, and sketchy social media influencer promotions. We also shared our findings on GNC lawsuits and reported on the relationship between BBB ratings and FTC actions.

Education was in regular contact with the press and media in 2017, offering commentary and analysis concerning false and deceptive marketing practices. was quoted and/or referenced in the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Newsweek, Boston Globe, Washington Post and The Atlantic, to name a few, with appearances on NPR’s On Point, the Today Show, and NBC Nightly News. also advised members of Congress regarding pending legislation concerning MLM companies. presented our perspective and consumer protection work at a law school, MLM industry conference, a conference of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Colleges of Business Administration as well the National Association of Attorneys General Consumer Protection Conference.

52 Ads We Like

We continued our Friday tradition of posting an ad that someone in the office liked. My personal favorite for 2017 was a spoof on an age-old deceptive marketing ploy.’s accomplishments in 2017 demonstrated that this organization is a force to be reckoned with. The impact of our work can be positively correlated to material marketing changes being made by individuals and corporations alike, and resulted in millions of dollars in savings to consumers. But it is consumers like you that contribute to our success that we are most thankful for. We look forward to working with you in 2018 to keep ads honest!

Bonnie Patten

Bonnie, executive director of, is an attorney and mother of three. Her commitment to educating the public about deceptive marketing stems from her belief that education is the only…

See More Posts

You Might Be Interested In

Are All Alcohol Ads Misleading?


Are All Alcohol Ads Misleading?

I was surprised when I learned that there are no specific rules or regulations governing alcohol advertising on television.  While tobacco products are prohibited from advertising on TV altogether, it’s…

Weekly Legal Roundup


Weekly Legal Roundup

Diamonds, energy supplements and cholesterol reducing drugs made legal headlines in the I-think-you’re-lying-to-me category during the week of February 11, 2013. Two new false advertising actions were filed: It’s a…