Claims for a sound amplifier were too loud for the Federal Trade Commission, which settled charges of deceptive advertising in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act with the Florida-based entities that manufactured the product and the entities’ owner.
The defendants advertised via television commercials and company-owned websites, depicting consumers frustrated with not being able to hear in different settings until they use MSA 30X, a small, rechargeable electronic wearable sound-amplifier product.
In one commercial, a wife complained about how loud her husband had turned up the television volume. After she got him MSA 30X, the ad shows, the husband was able to watch television at a lower volume while still being able “to hear everything clearly.” The commercial included the claim that the device was “independently tested” to help consumers “hear up to 30 times better.”
Similar claims were found on the defendants’ websites, which stated: “Enjoy a movie or show without missing a word, have conversations with friends in a crowded restaurant without struggling to hear them all while being confident in your appearance.”
Since 2012, the defendants sold almost 3 million products with total sales of $47.2 million despite lacking sufficient evidence that the device actually aided consumers in hearing better in the advertised circumstances, the FTC alleged, and without independent test results that showed MSA 30X helped consumers hear 30 times better.
Pursuant to the proposed court order settling the charges, the defendants are prohibited from making similar false or unsubstantiated ad claims, such as that MSA 30X allows users who have trouble hearing to clearly hear when watching TV at a moderate volume, helps users hear up to 30 times better, and lets users who have trouble hearing hear clearly (without missing a word) in crowded places like restaurants.
All future claims must be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence, including efficacy claims about any device—not just the MSA 30X. The defendants are also banned from misrepresenting test results or studies, and records of any human clinical tests or studies used to support advertising claims must be maintained.
A judgment of $47,203,036 will be partially suspended after payment of $500,000.
To read the complaint and the proposed consent order in FTC v. Global Concepts Limited, Inc., click here.
Why it matters: The FTC said the enforcement action provided multiple compliance tips for advertisers, including the need to have at least the advertised level of substantiation. The agency also highlighted the increasing number of actions that are addressing cognition, joint pain, “and other maladies affecting Consumers of a Certain Age,” given the rising number of baby boomers. “Advertisers eager to appeal to that demographic need to remember that established truth-in-advertising principles apply,” the FTC noted in a blog post about the case.