Failing to have adequate substantiation for advertising claims can land companies in hot water. Case in point: The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) recently announced that it had settled charges against a company and its CEO related to their advertising of anti-aging products using what the FTC believed were false or unsubstantiated claims. According to the FTC’s Complaint, Telomerase Activation Sciences, Inc. and Noel Patton (“TA Sciences”) lacked scientific evidence to support claims that their topical cream product and capsule/power product provided certain anti-aging and other health benefits. Specifically, the FTC alleged that it was false, misleading, or unsubstantiated for TA Sciences to make the following representations about one or both products:
- reverses aging;
- prevents and repairs DNA damage;
- restores aging immune systems;
- increases bone density;
- reverses the effects of aging, including improving skin elasticity, increasing energy and endurance, and improving vision;
- prevents or reduces the risk of cancer;
- decreases recovery time of the skin after medical procedures.
Additionally, the FTC alleged that TA Sciences made misrepresentations related to a paid program being independent and educational, related to consumers in its ads being independent users, and in promotional materials provided to other marketers.
The FTC alleged that TA Sciences’ conduct violated section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts, thus allowing the FTC to bring suit to enjoin such conduct. The FTC’s suit alleged counts of (1) false or unsubstantiated efficacy claims, (2) false establishment claims, (3) deceptive format, (4) deceptive failure to disclose material connections with consumer endorsers, (5) false independent users claims, and (6) means and instrumentalities to trade customers. The FTC’s proposed settlement order prohibits TA Sciences from making a number of representations related to these counts. It also requires TA Sciences to notify purchasers of the products at issue about the FTC settlement order. After a period of public comment, the FTC will decide whether to make the order final.
Of course, companies should ensure that they have adequate substantiation for advertising claims, whether health-related or otherwise. As a reminder, the FTC requires that advertisers have a reasonable basis for advertising claims before disseminating them. For more information regarding claim substantiation, review the FTC Policy Statement Regarding Advertising Substantiation.