MADISON, CONN. April 28, 2020 – Truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org) has filed a complaint against multilevel marketing company Herbalife with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for deceptive claims that Herbalife products can help prevent and treat the coronavirus by boosting the immune system. The ad watchdog is urging the agency to open an inquiry and take immediate action to protect consumers as the coronavirus pandemic’s death toll in the U.S. surpasses 50,000.
TINA.org has catalogued a sampling of more than 30 immunity-boosting claims made by the company through its distributors in its complaint to regulators. And while some Herbalife distributors tag posts #coronavirus, #nocoronavirus and #COVID-19, and make explicit claims that the company’s products are “good for fighting corona” and can act as a “Corona Defender Kit,” other distributors don’t mention the virus by name. In the era of the coronavirus, however, when the virus is all anyone can think about, immunity-boosting claims are elevated to implied disease-treatment or prevention claims requiring substantiation and FDA approval. There is currently no known treatment or vaccine for the coronavirus.
The California-based MLM known for its weight-loss and protein shakes is no stranger to regulatory action. In 2016, the company was the subject of a high profile FTC lawsuit focused on deceptive earnings claims, which all but labeled the company a pyramid scheme. Herbalife settled with the agency by paying out $200 million and agreeing to significantly restructure its business model.
TINA.org’s complaint to the FTC comes after the agency announced on Friday that it had sent warning letters to 10 MLMs regarding health and earnings claims related to COVID-19. Several of these same MLMs have been the subject of recent TINA.org’s consumer alerts around problematic coronavirus marketing. And despite messaging from the industry’s self-regulatory body that its members should not exploit the pandemic by making deceptive health and income claims, TINA.org has found companies doing just that.
The Herbalife action marks the third coronavirus-related complaint filed by the ad watchdog with regulators. TINA.org has also tipped off the FTC to deceptive claims made by another MLM, New U Life, as well as supplement maker Balance of Nature.
To read more about TINA.org’s investigation of Herbalife’s deceptive coronavirus claims, see: www.truthinadvertising.org/tina-org-alerts-ftc-to-herbalife-distributors-coronavirus-claims/
Find more of TINA.org’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here: www.truthinadvertising.org/a-growing-list-of-coronavirus-scams/
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