In a case based on a referral from the National Advertising Division, the Federal Trade Commission obtained summary judgment and a final order against an advertiser that claimed its dietary supplement could reverse or prevent gray hair.
In May 2015, the agency filed a complaint in Wyoming federal court against COORGA Nutraceuticals and Garfield Coore, the company’s executive vice president and sole employee, alleging that they violated Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act by making unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of a dietary supplement.
Marketing materials claimed that “Grey Defence is based on new breakthroughs in the understanding of greying,” “Grey Defence is an amazing product designed to slow, stop and reverse the signs of greying,” “Grey Defence is an effective enzyme replacement therapy for greying,” and “Grey Defence uses advance time release technology for enhanced intestinal track absorption.”
In support of the claims, the defendants relied upon an “observational study” of supplement users, which stated that 65 percent of customers reversed their grey and that “the longer customers used Grey Defence the greater the amount of reversal.” COORGA Nutraceuticals and Coore charged $69.99 for a single bottle or $1,279.99 for a pack of 24 bottles.
U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl granted the agency’s motion for summary judgment in August, finding that “there can be little doubt Defendants made material misrepresentations.”
The defendants had no reliable scientific evidence to back up the product claims, the claims that the dietary supplements efficacy was scientifically proven were false, and the observational study was not well designed or scientifically controlled, the court said. As for Coore, he either knew, or was recklessly indifferent about the misrepresentations, as he oversaw and directed every aspect of the company’s business.
Based on that ruling, the court subsequently entered an order banning the defendants from making gray hair-reversal or prevention claims and other health claims unless those claims are not misleading and are supported by reliable scientific evidence. In addition, the defendants must pay $391,335.
To read the complaint, summary judgment order and final judgment in FTC v. COORGA Nutraceuticals, click here.
Why it matters: “If a company says a product can get rid of gray hair or have some other miraculous result, they need the science to support that,” Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “We’re pleased that the court agreed with the Commission that strong product claims require strong evidence backing them up.” Similar suits against two other marketers ended in settlements last year, which prohibited those defendants from representing that their products reverse or prevent the formation of gray hair, and which banned them from making claims about the health benefits, performance, or efficacy of other dietary supplements, food, drug, or cosmetics absent competent and reliable scientific evidence.