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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

ERSP Refers Advertising for Nick Vertucci Real Estate Academy to FTC After Marketer Declines to Participate in ERSP Inquiry

The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) will refer direct response advertising for Nick Vertucci Real Estate Academy to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) after the marketer, The Nick Vertucci Companies, Inc., respectfully declined to participate in an ERSP inquiry.

ERSP is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. The marketer’s advertising came to the attention of ERSP pursuant to an anonymous competitor challenge.

Claims at issue in the initial inquiry included:

  • Over the last two years, his team has flipped over 800 properties across the country. They're coming to your city offering free training & information on how to make serious money in today's real estate market!”
  • “Will you let me turn YOU into my next Real Estate Millionaire?”
  • “Interested in earning extra money in real estate? Want to learn how to make $30,000 in 30 days? Come to Nick's upcoming FREE real estate training workshop in a nearby city and learn how to get in, get out, and GET PAID!”
  • “…make $10,000 to $40,000 per deal in your spare time without using any of your own money.”
  • “James & Minke: 3 Properties Purchased; $33,112 Net Cash Flow 22% in Appreciation”

Upon receipt of the Basis of Inquiry, the marketer informed ERSP that it was the named defendant in litigation in the United States District Court, Central District of California, Southern Division. The marketer noted that, pursuant to Section 2.2 (C)(ii)(b) of the ERSP Policy & Procedures, it would not participate in the self-regulatory forum, because it anticipates that the pending lawsuit will involve the same advertising and claims that are the subject of the ERSP inquiry.

The marketer also indicated that, while it would be unable to comply with ERSP’s request for additional information, it is voluntarily undertaking a comprehensive review of its entire advertising and marketing materials.

ERSP noted in its decision that while it recognized the marketer’s position regarding the pending litigation, there has been no confirmation that pending involves the same advertising and the same claims at issue in this self-regulatory inquiry.

Accordingly, based upon the marketer’s written representation that it would not participate in this self-regulatory inquiry, ERSP is referring the matter to the FTC pursuant to Section 2.6 (B) of the ERSP Policy & Procedures.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

ERSP Recommends Obesity Research Institute Modify, Discontinue Certain Claims for Lipozene

The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) has recommended that Obesity Research Institute, LLC, modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for Lipozene, a weight loss supplement.

ERSP is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The marketer’s advertising came to the attention of ERSP through its ongoing monitoring program.

In response to ERSP’s initial inquiry, the marketer informed ERSP that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2005 had issued a stipulated final judgment regarding another product marketed by ORI. That order applies to Lipozene as a “substantially similar product.” The marketer provided written documentation that the FTC has reviewed certain claims and substantiating documentation in its 2006 compliance monitoring of Obesity Research Institute and Lipozene.

ERSP closed its review of claims covered by the 2005 order, but continued its review of certain performance claims and testimonials, including:
  • "Lipozene has effectively helped millions of people meet their weight loss goals."
  • "With over 20 million bottles sold, Lipozene is America's #1 selling diet supplement."
  • "There are no known side effects when taken as directed."
  • "Best of all Lipozene is all-natural and does not contain caffeine or other stimulants that can leave you feeling jittery."
  • “I have been taking this product for about 3 months and have lost almost 2 pant sizes. I take it 30 minutes before I eat and move all throughout the day. I absolutely love this product. It is by far this best product out there for a mother of 7 who doesn’t have time to go the gym.”
Following its review of the evidence in the case record, ERSP determined that ORI provided a reasonable basis for the claims “20 million bottles sold” and “millions of people meet their weight loss goals.”

ERSP did not object to the marketer‘s claim that Lipozene is “…all-natural and does not contain caffeine or other stimulants that can leave you feeling jittery,” but recommended the marketer discontinue or modify the claim that Lipozene has “no known side effects when taken as directed."

ERSP found that the marketer’s current disclosures, as they appear in online advertising, were inadequate and recommended that ORI include an accompanying triggering symbol to alert website visitors that the claims do not depict results that may be typically expected by consumers.

ERSP also recommended that ORI modify or discontinue consumer testimonials.

The company, in its marketer’s statement, said it “welcomes and appreciates ERSP’s thorough and thoughtful review of advertising for its weight loss product, Lipozene … Obesity Research Institute does not necessarily agree with all of ERSP’s analysis and conclusions … it nevertheless certainly respects ERSP’s conclusions and recommendations and will modify these claims in its future advertising.”

Thursday, August 7, 2014

ERSP Recommends Real Freedom, Inc. Modify, Discontinue Certain Claims for Real Estate Mogul; Company Agrees to Do So

The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) has recommended that Real Freedom, Inc., modify or discontinue certain claims for the Real Estate Mogul real estate investing education program, including claims related to earnings.

ERSP is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. The marketer’s advertising came to the attention of ERSP through an its ongoing monitoring program.

ERSP reviewed online advertising claims for the real estate investing program, including:

  • “You’ll gain exposure to thousands of potential buyers, sellers, lenders, and partners INSTANTLY.”
  • “It can be full-time or very part-time”
  • “You’re already pre-qualified”
  • “Hey, this closes in about 2 hours…get in there and get going! Freedom awaits!”
  • “Need money fast? Yeah…you do”
  • “You’ll make anywhere from $2,250 to $10,500 for each successful match.”

The advertising reviewed consists of the marketer’s website (www.realestatemogul.com) and email marketing for Real Estate Matchmaker.

ERSP noted in its decision that the marketer voluntarily addressed certain of the specific claims at issue, including claims that users of the program can earn money quickly or easily. ERSP also acknowledged the marketer’s pledge to discontinue or modify claims that attest to ease of use, pre-qualification, and selective enrollment.

While ERSP did not object to the marketer’s general performance claims regarding descriptions of the product or service, ERSP recommended that the marketer discontinue its sales-pressure claims and refrain from communicating sales-pressure claims in future advertising. Finally, ERSP determined that the earnings claims at issue were not adequately substantiated in their advertised context and it was recommended that these advertised earning claims be discontinued.

The company, in its marketer’s statement, said that it “agrees to abide by the recommendations of ERSP and will continue to make our best effort to bring all of our marketing into compliance in a timely fashion.

Again, our ERSP review has been incredibly valuable, and we’re committed to running a business that’s entirely compliant with existing FTC regulations, as well as staying abreast of any future developments in those regulations.”

Friday, August 1, 2014

ERSP Reviews Advertising for ‘Jidue,’ Recommends Marketer Modify or Discontinue Certain Claims

The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) has recommended that Audy Global modify or discontinue claims for “Jidue,” a facial massager intended to help reduce eye puffiness, facial tension, and wrinkles.

ERSP is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The marketer’s advertising came to the attention of ERSP pursuant to its ongoing monitoring program.

ERSP reviewed broadcast and online advertising claims for Jidue, including:
  • “Reduces puffiness and dark circles”
  • “Improves blood circulation”
  • “Alleviates eye fatigue”
  • “Relieves muscle tension and stress”
  • “Relieves sinus pain”
  • “Helps you sleep through the night”
  • “Reduces wrinkle development”
  • “CLINICALLY PROVEN to help relieve eye puffiness, facial tension and stress.”
  • "It's clinically proven to reduce the development of wrinkles while helping to eliminate puffy eyes and unsightly bags starting in just a few days."

As support for the performance and establishment claims at issue, the marketer submitted testing on Jidue. This study included subjects who self-reported the results of using Jidue over a thirty-day period.

Following its review of the evidence in the case record, ERSP did not object to the general description of Jidue, i.e., “Jidue's patented 18 acupulse massagers stimulate your acupressure points that date back over 1000 years, including qingming for eye fatigue and pain, qiuhou that focuses on dry eye and inflammation, and zanshou and yuyao for stress headaches," or that the product can provide a relaxing massage.

However, ERSP determined that the marketer did not provide adequate support for claims that included: 
  • clinically proven” results
  • "Helps you sleep through the night
  • Reduce wrinkle development
  • Reduces puffiness and dark circles

ERSP recommended the marketer modify or discontinue the claims in the context in which they were communicated.

The company, in its marketer’s statement, said, “Audy Global Enterprises is conducting further tests consistent with the ASRC standards and will be bringing all future advertising into compliance with their standards. Audy Global will rewrite and update existing claims compliant with the existing self-reported trials performed on the Jidue Facial massager.”

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The ERSP Copy Review - A New ERSP Service!

The Copy Review Service offers marketers the opportunity to have ERSP, a third-party self-regulatory organization, review print, broadcast, radio, and online advertising. In a Copy Review, ERSP will:
  • Review primary and core advertising claims, highlighting potential self-regulatory issues, and adhering to self–regulatory best practices and guidance provided by the appropriate regulatory authority.
  • Provide general, non-binding recommendations limited only to the specific advertising that is reviewed by ERSP. For example, ERSP’s analysis of a long form (e.g., 30 minute) broadcast advertisement may not be similarly applied to a short form (e.g., 120 second) advertisement for the same product because of the different context in which the claims may be presented.
  • Suggest what level of substantiation may be needed based upon the claims presented by the marketer and the context in which the core claims are disseminated.
Include follow-up dialogue with ERSP staff regarding the advertising.

The Copy Review Service is confidential, voluntary, non-evidentiary, non-binding and does not constitute legal advice. Please note:

  • An ERSP Copy Review that does not result in a recommendation that claims be discontinued or modified will not assure the marketer that some other action, filing or adverse finding will not occur in another regulatory or self-regulatory forum (i.e., such as the FTC or the National Advertising Division). Participation shall not be construed or represented as an endorsement or approval by ERSP, ERA, ASRC, or CBBB of a company, product or service.
  • Participation in the ERSP Program does not include an evaluation of the evidence that a marketer is or may be relying on to support any claims made in its advertising. Participants will not be required to submit evidence to substantiate core advertising claims as part of this review process.
Fees for the service vary and are dependent upon the medium of dissemination and the length of the advertisement(s).

For any questions, including ERSP Copy Review information and pricing, please contact Jessica Grodzki at jgrodzki@ersp.bbb.org.

Friday, June 6, 2014

ERSP Recommends Adams Publishing Group Modify Certain Claims for Affiliate-Marketing Program; Company Agrees to Do So

The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) has recommended that Adams Publishing Group modify or discontinue certain claims for the Jeff Adams Real Estate Investing Expert affiliate marketing program.

ERSP is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. The marketer’s advertising came to the attention of ERSP through an anonymous competitor challenge.

ERSP reviewed online advertising claims for the affiliate marketing, real estate investing program, including:
  • “… teaches you how to make money with real estate investing – buying and selling foreclosures and distressed properties and doing it with no money and no credit”
  • “… will help you achieve financial freedom faster than ever!”
  • “Over the past 16 years, Jeff has invested in both residential and commercial properties in a variety of different states and his real estate businesses have brought in more than $50 million”
  • “… enabled me to increase my income in ways I never thought possible. No more hype. No more confusion. Thanks so much for your help, Jeff. I didn't think it could really be done, especially not as fast as Jeff said." [Don Sanders]
The advertising consists of the marketer’s website (www.jeffadams.com), which explains that Jeff Adams is a real estate investment expert who can teach customers how to make money with real estate investing - buying and selling foreclosures and distressed properties - through courses and training.

Preliminarily, ERSP noted the marketer’s willingness to cooperate and participate in the self-regulatory process.

ERSP was concerned with representations that consumers are able to make money with no money or no credit. ERSP noted that the marketer pledged to modify the website to qualify such claims to indicate that certain strategies do not require using any of the student’s money. ERSP also acknowledged the marketer’s commitment to indicate whether certain material terms and conditions of particular lenders may apply.

ERSP also was concerned with the implication that consumers may earn money quickly and easily and recommended that such performance claims be discontinued.
ERSP noted that the marketer did not provide any evidence regarding the amount of money that consumers have earned and that the majority of earnings claims attest to Jeff Adams’ personal success in real estate investing.

The marketer informed ERSP that with regard to www.jeffadams.com, it will further modify its website to remove all earnings claims, and will refrain from making earnings claims in future advertising that is developed. ERSP further recommended that the marketer qualify the claims with a clear and conspicuous disclosure indicating that Jeff Adam’s success was atypical, by disclosing what the typical result would be.

Finally, ERSP does not dispute that the success stories depicted in the advertising are from real people with actual success stories. However, ERSP recommended that they be accompanied by clear and conspicuous language qualifying the claims with disclosures of typicality. ERSP also recommended the marketer revisit testimonial claims for any potential implied earnings messages within the context of the testimonials themselves.

The company, in its marketer’s statement, said that it “agrees with ERSP's recommendations, has implemented those recommendations and will continue to comply with all federal, state and local laws, regulations, industry guidelines and best industry practices.”

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

ERSP Refers Advertising for Kelacore to FTC, FDA After Marketer Fails to Respond to ERSP Inquiry

The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) has announced it will refer direct response advertising for the dietary supplement “Kelacore”  to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after the marketer, Nature's Medicine Associates, failed to respond to an ERSP inquiry.

ERSP is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. The marketer’s advertising came to ERSP’s attention pursuant to its ongoing monitoring program.

Claims at issue in the initial inquiry included:
  • "Clears deadly plaque from arteries without pills, needles, or surgery
  • "To begin with, the results of more than 34,000 patient case studies here in the U.S. are impressive to say the least. Many patients taking Kelacore™ report a 50% reduction in artery plaque. Some users report an incredible 75% reduction.”
  • “’My femoral arteries were 70% blocked,’ says Jack Yates of Vashon, WA. ‘but Kelacore™ has pretty much cleaned them out now. It’s a relief to know I’m not such a high risk person for a heart attack or stroke anymore.’”
  • “Clinical studies show it improves blood flow in the arteries. Many patients see blood pressure and cholesterol levels return to normal. Some are able to cancel costly drugs. Others avoid open-heart surgery. And many more report less chest pains and numbness in the arms, legs, and feet.” 

After failing to provide a substantive response to ERSP’s original inquiry within fifteen calendar days, the marketer was afforded a second ten-day period in which to submit a substantive response. The marketer again did not submit a written response to the inquiry and pursuant to section 2.6 (B) of the ERSP Policy and Procedures, this matter has been referred to the FTC and FDA.