If you thought backing into a cactus hurts, you should try backing your “deceptive” native ad into the FTC.
Now that is a real stinger.
Of course, if you don’t believe me, just ask the marketing folks behind a cactus juice beverage.
TriVita, a dietary supplement company, is being compelled to cough up millions ($3.5 million, to be exact) to resolve a serious FTC complaint stemming from what some call wild and outrageous claims about the health benefits of drinking said beverage.
Calls to TiVita were not answered as of press time, however, there are two sides to every story and we invite TiVita to share theirs with us. But until they do, here’s what the FTC says publicly about the matter.
Advertisements on the defendants’ websites tout “Inflammation Relief without a Prescription.” But, apparently, those claims are a tad bit on the unfounded side.
“The defendants’ infomercials featuring celebrity endorser and former supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, market Nopalea as an ‘anti-inflammatory wellness drink’ that relieves pain, reduces and relieves joint and muscle swelling, improves breathing and alleviates respiratory problems, and relieves skin conditions,” the FTC says.
TriVita’s former Chief Science Officer even goes as far as to link inflammation to allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and diabetes. The ex-exec, we’re told, appeared on the infomercials saying that “over 200 articles published and archived at the National Institutes of Health demonstrate one thing: the Nopal cactus will reduce inflammation.”
Making matters worse, the infomercials allegedly feature testimonials by “satisfied consumers” who are — we subsequently learned — actually paid employees of the defendants, according to the FTC complaint.
“These kinds of unfounded claims are unacceptable, particularly when they impact consumers’ health,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Advertisers who cannot back up their claims with competent and reliable scientific evidence are violating the law.”
Specifically, the defendants are charged with violating Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act by:
- making unsupported claims that Nopalea significantly improves breathing and relieves sinus infections and other respiratory conditions, and provides significant relief from pain, swelling of the joints and muscles, and psoriasis and other skin conditions.
- making false claims that the health benefits of Nopalea were proven by clinical studies.
- failing to disclose that supposedly ordinary consumer endorsers were in fact TriVita sales people who received commissions for selling the defendants’ products.
Per the information contained on the FTC’s website, the Commission files a complaint “when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest.”