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Attorney General Mills announces joint FTC action against sellers of supplements
February 22, 2017
AUGUSTA – Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills today announced that her office and the Federal Trade Commission have filed a complaint against nine defendants, including three corporations and six individuals, for their roles in a deceptive campaign to sell a joint health supplement and a cognitive health supplement in violation of state and federal laws.
The defendants marketed and sold two products which are the focus of this court action, Flexiprin for joint health and Cogniprin for memory improvement. The complaint alleges that the defendants employed unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the advertising, marketing, distribution, and sale of FlexiPrin and CogniPrin. The defendants sold these products directly to consumers, primarily through radio and print advertising nationwide and in Canada, which has garnered in excess of $6.5 million in gross sales from January 1, 2012 through April 30, 2015.
The Defendants made false claims about the efficacy and testing of their products and deceptively enrolled consumers in ‘continuity plans’, or automatic monthly shipments for which consumers’ credit and debit cards were automatically charged. When consumers attempted to halt shipments or obtain a refund, they were then told of additional, undisclosed requirements they could almost never abide by. Defendants would use stage names and claim medical credentials to promote the products and claim clinical testing that never actually occurred. Consumers were then, on the same calls, deceptively induced to purchase other services such as discount buying clubs or health savings plans which were also difficult to cancel.
“This scheme misled people into thinking they were getting medically proven products to improve their memory and joint health,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills. “The defendants’ products appealed to vulnerable populations who had memory issues and pain and who were taken advantage of by fine print that was not fully disclosed. Consumers also were misled about the true costs of the products and how they could get their money back. These products offered false promises based on false advertising. These companies fleeced Americans of millions of dollars. We appreciate the assistance and cooperation of the FTC in bringing this campaign of deception to an end.”
Six of the defendants (2 corporations and 4 individuals) have agreed to settlements, in the form of proposed stipulated Orders, with the State and Federal governments, which will result in over $500,000 total in monetary judgment and strong injunctions including, for one defendant and his corporations, a 20-year ban on marketing or selling dietary supplements directly to consumers. The proposed monetary judgment of over $6.5 million is suspended based on extensive financial analysis of the settling defendants’ ability to pay.
Maine and the FTC filed the Complaint and the proposed Orders in federal court in the District of Maine. These stipulated final Orders will have the force of law if and when approved and signed by a District Court judge upon deciding the case.
The complaint can be viewed here: https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/cases/1523024xxlimpressions_complaint.pdf
Maine and the Federal Trade Commission partner to crack down on sellers of supplements that made false and deceptive claims about their products and used deceptive business practices to fleece consumers if they sought a refund.