Tommie Copper Settles, Bringing Bill to $2 Million

Compression garment company squeezes out $700,000 for consumer class fund

Keep Reaching for the Stars

According to George Potzner’s class action complaint, Tommie Copper was making a lot of unsubstantiated claims about its compression garments, including “sport, science and skin health benefits for improved mobility, performance and relief” and the product’s “copper fabric releases ions, which may help reduce the oxidants in the body and is a natural, permanent antibacterial agent with skin benefits.”

The company also touted speedy joint and muscle recovery, pain relief and, in what might perhaps be more puffery than a measurable claim, helping people “overcome obstacles and achieve their dreams.” Sounds kind of great, right?

Debbie Downer

Not so fast, says Potzner, who wags his finger at Tommie Copper’s marketing campaign. The company, he claims, falsely touted the recovery of athlete “ambassadors” who pushed the product (he does not name the athletes in question). Potzner also accused Tommie Copper of claiming unfounded scientific “facts” to promote the benefits of its garments. Most important, Potzner alleges that the products simply do not provide either pain relief or the other benefits promised by the manufacturer.

In addition to these accusations, Potzner also tagged Tommie Copper with failing to meet Food and Drug Administration (FDA)and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory requirements for registering or approving “antimicrobial textiles and certain copper.” Disclosures of FDA or EPA registrations or approval, Potzner alleges, are nowhere to be found on the products.

The Takeaway

The class action, filed in April 2015 in New York’s Southern District, picked up steam in early 2016 when the court consolidated the case, adding a number of similar plaintiffs. In short order, settlement discussions were afoot, and an agreement was reached in November 2017, followed by preliminary approval less than a month later.

Tommie Copper agreed to set aside $700,000 in a fund to pay out to consumers who purchased its wares between April 11, 2011, and Dec. 19, 2017. The settlement will award customers who can prove their purchase through electronic or written records of $10 for each product purchased, and, for customers who lack documentation, $5 total. As an alternate arrangement, customers are allowed to bump up their recovered funds by 40 percent by applying their award to purchases on Tommie Copper’s website.

The settlement of the consolidated class action follows an earlier throw-down with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2015. The FTC dispute ended with Tommie Copper paying $1.35 million to settle accusations of deceptive advertising regarding many of the same claims identified by Potzner.

Advertisers should beware that regulators, competitors and consumer plaintiffs may all call upon them to substantiate all claims made regarding products or services, and claims of health benefits have historically come under some of the strictest scrutiny.