600 Penn: Astroturfing Consent Decree, Acai Berry Bust and Substantiation Requirements

FTC Tags Reverb Communications for Astroturfing

Public Relations firm Reverb Communications became one of the first companies to enter a consent decree under the new FTC Blogger Endorsement Guidelines after the FTC charged it with using its employees to post favorable reviews for clients.  Under the consent decree, Reverb and its owner must
  • remove any previously posted endorsements that misrepresent the authors as independent users or ordinary consumers, and that fail to disclose a connection between Reverb and the seller of a product or service.
  • may not misrepresent that the user or endorser is an independent, ordinary consumer, or make endorsement or user claims about a product or service unless they disclose any relevant connections that they have with the seller of the product or service
More info:  FTC Press Release.
FTC Wins Court Order Blocking Acai Berry Marketer’s Deceptive Advertising and Marketing Practices
Acai berry supplements are widely advertised over the internet and were named one of the Top 10 Scams and Ripoffs of 2009 by the BBB.  The FTC obtained an asset freeze and temporary receiver over Central Coast Nutraceuticals, Inc., for making billing customers for their “free trial” and making fake endorsements by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray “for a product that didn’t work in the first place.”
The false claims cited by the FTC included:

  • claiming that using AcaiPure could lead to rapid and substantial weight loss.

  • making unproven claims that the product’s weight-loss claims are backed by “double-blind, placebo-controlled weight loss studies”.

  • deceptively claiming that Colopure could help prevent colon cancer because it would “cleanse your entire system,” “detoxify your organs,” and break down and remove “toxic waste matter which may have been stuck in the folds and wrinkles of your digestive system for years and years.”

More info:  FTC Press Release.

FTC Expands Health Claim Substantiation Requirements

In two recent consent decrees, the FTC has expanded the type of substantiation required for a marketer making certain health claims.   Specifically, the FTC requires
[a]t least two adequate and well-controlled human clinical studies of the product, or of an essentially equivalent product, conducted by different researchers, independently of each other, that conform to acceptable designs and protocols and whose results, when considered in light of the entire body of relevant and reliable scientific evidence, are sufficient to substantiate that the representation is true.
The consent decrees involved health benefits claimed by Nestle for its Boost Kids Essential beverage and weight loss claims by a dietary supplement marketer.  With respect to claims regarding disease prevention, the FTC prohibited Nestle from making claims that the drink reduces the risk of respiratory infections unless the claim is permitted under FDA regulations, while also prohibiting dietary supplement marketers’  claims that it can treat colds, flu or other illnesses unless the claim is non-misleading and the product is an FDA-approved drug.
More info: FTC Releases on Nestle and Iovate Consent Decrees; Capitol Comments: New Substantiation Standards from FTC?, Neutraceuticals World