A putative class action filed in New York federal court alleges that Vemma Nutrition Co. falsely advertises its products—including Vemma Mangosteen with Essential Minerals®, Vemma Renew® and Vemma Verve®—as “clinically studied” and “doctor formulated” despite “no credible studies that ‘prove’ any of Defendants’ claims and the consensus of published research confirms that Defendants’ claims are false.” Horanzy v. Vemma Nutrition Co., No. 14-1296 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D.N.Y., filed October 22, 2014).
Vemma—or “Vitamins Essential Minerals Mangosteen Aloe,” according to the complaint—sells the products as vitamin-enhanced beverages, and allegedly advertises them as “tested to the highest standard of critical research” to enhance immunity and overall health and increase vitamins and antioxidants in the blood. The complaint also alleges that the company advertises Vemma products as increasing oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), with an associated clinical study, despite that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (US DA) “has established that ORA C values have absolutely no relation to human health and that a manufacturer’s use of such claims in highly misleading.”
The plaintiff identifies several alleged flaws in both studies that Vemma cites in its advertising, claiming that the researchers failed to employ an error rate adjustment or obtain a proper number of participants. Alleging violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and New York false advertising and deceptive business practices statutes as well as unjust enrichment, fraud, breach of warranty, and negligent misrepresentation, the plaintiff seeks class certification, attorney’s fees and compensatory, treble and punitive damages.
Vemma has also been targeted in recent Rolling Stone and Al Jazeera America features. The articles claim that Vemma exploits young people in its multilevel- marketing organization. According to Rolling Stone, Vemma founder BK Boreyko started the company after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sanctioned his previous company, New Vision International, for claiming that “a regimen of its pills, collectively known as ‘God’s Recipe,’ could cure children of attention-deficit disorder.”
Vemma apparently targets young people in college—and, until recently, children as young as 14 in high school—by encouraging Vemma affiliates to bring friends, or “prospects,” to a meeting without clarifying what the meeting is about beforehand to avoid giving the prospects time to learn more about the company. New recruits reportedly buy $500 Affiliate Starter Packs to be eligible to become one of the 300 affiliates or so—out of hundreds of thousands— who have earned a company luxury car. Rolling Stone alleges that, even then, the car’s lease is in the affiliate’s name because “if you don’t hit your sales goals, then you get stuck with the bill.” Al Jazeera reports that few former affiliates have attempted to recoup their losses from the company in court because “to become an affiliate, kids must sign an agreement promising to never speak out against the company or anyone involved in the company and agreeing not to bring a class-action lawsuit.” See Al Jazeera, October 14, 2014; Rolling Stone, October 30, 2014.