MADISON, CONN. November 7, 2016 – Calling into question the Direct Selling Association’s commitment to consumer protection, a truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org) investigation has revealed that 97 percent of DSA member companies selling nutritional supplements have distributors deceptively marketing their products with unsubstantiated health claims.
Though the industry trade group representing multilevel marketing (MLM) companies states that it “enforces one of the most rigorous self-regulatory codes of ethics in business today, ensuring that direct-selling companies not only follow the law, but in many cases exceed its requirements,” the facts tell a different story. TINA.org catalogued well over a thousand illegal disease-treatment claims made by distributors from 60 out of 62 different MLM supplement companies.
From autism, and cancer to Ebola, there is an MLM supplement that is being marketed to cure, treat, mitigate, or prevent a wide variety of diseases, the ad watchdog’s findings show. These claims are being made across the Internet and social media by a multitude of MLM distributors from DSA member companies.
All of this despite the fact that FTC and FDA law (and the DSA Code of Ethics) state that unless there is the appropriate scientific backup and approval, no one associated with an MLM business – not the company, not its distributors, not its medical board nor any other expert endorsers – can make disease-treatment claims.
“This misleading marketing exploits vulnerable consumers desperate to improve their health and the health of their loved ones, and diverts sales away from supplement companies that follow the law,” said TINA.org executive director, Bonnie Patten.
MLMs have been under increased scrutiny of late. This summer Herbalife agreed to a $200 million settlement with the FTC that requires it to revamp its compensation structure. And at a recent DSA conference, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez issued a strongly worded statement critical of deceptive recruiting practices. Herbalife and other MLMs investigated by TINA.org including Jusuru, Kyani, and Youngevity were also skewered by news satire show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in Sunday’s episode.
To read more about TINA.org’s investigation of MLM Health Claims: www.truthinadvertising.org/dsa-ignoring-illegal-health-claims