Impact on Health Not the Only Issue in Unregulated Industry
MADISON, Conn., July 22, 2014 — Consumers curious about trying e-cigarettes are being swindled in droves by unscrupulous companies advertising free trials and special deals, according to an analysis of nearly 600 consumer complaints to the FTC by advocacy group truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org). The advertising watchdog launched an investigation into the rapidly growing industry after receiving numerous consumer complaints about Vapex, a Utah-based e-cigarette company. Today, TINA.org published its findings and filed legal complaints against Vapex with the FTC as well as the Attorney General of Utah.
With sales projected to top $2 billion this year, e-cigarette companies are using a variety of aggressive tactics to attract consumers. TINA.org’s analysis of hundreds of FTC complaints found that the vast majority of consumers reported signing up for free or discounted trial offers but were then hit with repeated charges to their credit cards, sometimes wiping out their entire accounts.
TINA.org’s probe into the marketing practices of Vapex revealed clear-cut examples of deceptive advertising. Sites linked to Vapex feature unsubstantiated claims that e-cigarettes save consumers money, fake testimonials, and most importantly, offer free trials that are neither free nor true trials. Consumers who signed up for “free trials” were particularly frustrated about Vapex’s response to their complaints and conflicting information about who to contact to resolve issues.
“While state and federal governments focus on the possible health risks of vaping, consumers are being victimized by the deceptive marketing tactics used in the fledgling e-cigarette industry,” said TINA.org Executive Director Bonnie Patten. “Consumers need to be on alert.”
Earlier this month, TINA.org alerted Vapex to the issues found in the investigation and demanded that the company cease its deceptive practices. Vapex did not respond so TINA.org sent legal complaints, which detail the results of its investigation, to both the FTC as well as Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes asking the regulators to take action to protect consumers.
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