On Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced its settlement with Viatek Consumer Products Group Inc. (“Viatek”) and its principal Lou Lentine (“Lentine”) concerning claims that their “Mosquito Shield” wristband prevents wearers from being bitten by mosquitos. The FTC commenced litigation against Viatek and Lentine in February, 2015. After a failed motion to dismiss by the defendants and some discovery, the parties agreed on the terms of a settlement and are now seeking court approval.
How did Viatek Falsely Advertise its Product?
False Advertising Claims against Viatek
According to the complaint filed by the FTC, Viatek advertises that its Mosquito Shield product prevents mosquito bites despite lacking any competent and reliable scientific evidence to support this claim. The allegedly false representations have not only been made in print media and on the Internet, but also repeatedly on the home shopping television network HSN. Moreover, according to the complaint, Viatek’s principal Lentine was subject to a 2003 FTC Order that required any future advertising claims made by Lentine (or any company that he worked for) be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
Pursuant to the terms of the settlement with the FTC, Viatek and Lentine are jointly and severally responsible to pay the FTC $300,000. In addition, neither may make any future advertising claims about products without first obtaining competent and reliable scientific evidence which supports such claims.
As we previously blogged, the FTC has been cracking down on national deceptive advertising campaigns. The penalties sought in such actions, whether initiated by the FTC or state regulators, can be quite severe. As a result of this risk to marketers, it is important to engage competent counsel prior to commencing any marketing campaign, particularly those involving health benefit-related claims.