A company making deceptive claims about the efficacy of its lice prevention products (“The best way to treat lice? Avoid getting them!”) recently reached a $500,000 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

Lornamead, Inc., attempted to differentiate itself by claiming that its Lice Shield shampoo, stick, and spray products prevented lice, rather than as a treatment for lice infestations. Accompanying the company’s banner, Web, and print ads was an image of a sword wielding child dressed in a knight’s helmet with shield, while cartoon lice bounce off his helmet.

The personal care company claimed that ingredients like citronella and other essential oils in the Lice Shield product line would “dramatically reduce” the risk of head lice infestations and were “scientifically shown to repel head lice” – representations that were false, the FTC alleged. The FTC also found that the company failed to substantiate its claims that spraying Lice Shield Gear Guard onto items like hats and helmets would reduce the likelihood of getting lice.

In addition to the $500,000 payment, Lornamead agreed not to make deceptive claims about lice prevention in the future. For claims that the product can repel lice or reduce the risk of infestation by a specific percentage or amount, the company must have at least one well-controlled human clinical study supporting the claims.

Future claims about the health benefits of any drug, cosmetic, or pesticide require competent and reliable scientific evidence under the agreement. Lornamead also promised not to misrepresent any tests, studies, or research in marketing such products.

To read the complaint and proposed consent order in In re Lornamead, click here

Why it matters: “As any parent knows, an outbreak of lice can wreak havoc,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement about the case. “When marketers say their products can be used to avoid these pests, they’d better make sure they can back up their claims.”