Mikey & Momo settles with commission over alleged false claims and undisclosed relations
Smells Good in Here
Essential oils of geranium, lemon grass, cedar leaf, cedarwood, thyme, rosewood, balsam, lavandin, spruce, patchouli and cardamom: A terrific blend of smells, but how do mosquitos feel about it?
According to the Federal Trade Commission, they can take it or leave it.
This pungent list of ingredients provides the basis for Aromaflage insect repellent spray and candles made by Mikey & Momo, Inc. A similar blend of aromatics infuses the company’s Aromaflage Wild spray and candle products.
The company’s advertising caught the attention of the FTC, which filed a suit against Mikey & Momo in May 2018. At issue were consumer endorsements made by individuals close to the company as well as claims the company made regarding the effectiveness of the repellent products.
N,N-Diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (commonly referred to as DEET), developed in the 1940s by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for use in jungle warfare, is the active ingredient in insect repellents. Apparently, mosquitoes can’t stand the smell of the stuff. DEET went on to be incorporated in consumer products, which measure their effectiveness by percentage comparison to the pure chemical.
At the heart of the commission’s case were DEET comparison claims made by Mikey & Momo’s product advertising − including related websites, packaging and YouTube videos. The Aromaflage products boasted a 25 percent of DEET effectiveness, while claiming to be “free of DEET, chemicals, and parabens.” In related claims, the manufacturers asserted that Aromaflage products “[repelled] mosquitoes that may carry Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya, and Yellow Fever” − serious claims given the recent uptick in Zika infections that have been linked to birth defects in children.
According to the commission, however, the testing that yielded the 25 percent figure was highly problematic. Human subjects were not used, the candle products were not tested at all and the test included only one species of mosquito, even though different species have varying reactions to repellents. The complaint also stated that the Aromaflage products performed worse than plain water and other 25 percent-DEET products at different stages of the testing.
The commission then turned to a series of five-star reviews the Aromaflage products had secured on Amazon.com, claiming that the reviews were written by Mikey & Momo officer Melissa Fensterstock and other individuals who had a material connection with the company − including her family members.
The suit charged Mikey & Momo, Melissa Fensterstock and co-officer Michael Fensterstock with making false or unsubstantiated claims, false establishment claims and deceptive endorsements, and with a failure to disclose material connections with consumer endorsers.
A settlement followed in short order, with Mikey & Momo banned from making the alleged misrepresentations and required to furnish clear and conspicuous disclosure of any unexpected connections between the company and endorsers.