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Friday, October 10, 2014

ERSP Reviews Advertising for ConsumerAffairs.com, Recommends Marketer Modify Certain Claims

The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) has recommended that ConsumerAffairs.com modify certain claims for its website.

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 was challenged by UnbeatableSale, Inc.

ERSP reviewed online advertising claims for ConsumerAffairs, including:

  • “Consumer Affairs is a consumer news and advocacy organization founded in 1998 by James R. Hood, a veteran Washington, D.C. journalist and public affairs executive. Our website includes consumer news, recall information and tens of thousands of pages of consumer reviews.”
  • “ConsumerAffairs.com is a private, non-governmental entity that empowers consumers by providing a forum for their reviews.”
The challenger also expressed concerns regarding the filtering of reviews on the website; a lack of disclosure to consumers that describes how the ratings system operates; the message that ConsumerAffairs.com is a consumer advocacy organization; and the lack of disclosures describing the material connection between ConsumerAffairs clients and their review pages.

ConsumerAffairs is a website that publishes stories on various topics and compiles consumer news, recall information, consumer resolutions, and company features along with press releases and alerts from different public sources. The site also maintains a publicly searchable database of consumer reviews of companies; each page pertaining to a company on the website includes a five-star “satisfaction rating” based upon complaints and reviews.

As the marketer’s website encompasses all aspects of customer contact, including products, services, sales and complaints, ERSP did not object to the marketer’s characterization of its website as a “… consumer news and advocacy organization.”

ERSP found that the relationship between ConsumerAffairs and its accredited members was not adequately disclosed and thus, recommended the marketer clearly and conspicuously disclose the material connection it has with its accredited members throughout its website.


ERSP also recommended that ConsumerAffairs modify its website to clearly and  conspicuously disclose to visitors of the website that reviews and complaints upon which the satisfaction ratings are based are displayed differently for accredited members and non-accredited members.

The company, in its marketer’s statement, said, “… as part of its continuing effort to provide consumers with the most accurate and updated information, ConsumerAffairs has made a number of modifications to its website that it believes addresses the two recommendations made by ERSP in its decision. ConsumerAffairs appreciates the recommendations received from ERSP regarding the information presented on ConsumerAffairs’ website, and believes that the modifications it has made address ERSP’s concerns and comply with all FTC guidelines.”

ERSP Refers Advertising for Mobile Money Code to FTC

The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) will refer direct response advertising for Mobile Money Code to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) after the marketer 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. The marketer’s advertising came to ERSP’s attention pursuant to its ongoing monitoring program.

Claims at issue in the initial inquiry included:

  • “Free Training: 100% Make Money With Your Cellphone!”
  • “I’m going to help make you a millionaire”
  • “The $45,422 Dollar a Day System – Mobile Money Code”
  • [screen shot of statement: Available Balance] $2,577,839.10”
  • “In the past two years I’ve made my money using a very powerful and unique custom made, cash-generating cell phone technology.”
  • "I’m really hoping that this ‘automatic money system’ works…Am I really done? I can’t believe I’m done… $448.10! Wow! I was a believer, but now…wow! I mean, this is incredible!”
Pursuant to the ERSP Policy and Procedures, 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 did not do so. Pursuant to ERSP Policies and Procedures, this matter has been referred to the FTC.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

ERSP Reviews Advertising for ‘Androfen,’ Recommends Marketer Modify or Discontinue Certain Claims; Find Marketer Can Support Certain Claims

The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) has recommended that Androfen, LLC, modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for Androfen, a dietary supplement intended to increase testosterone levels. ERSP also determined that certain claims were supported by the advertiser’s evidence.

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 online advertising claims for Androfen, including:

  • “Reduce body fat”
  • “Increase muscle”
  • “Accelerate sex drive”
  • “CLINICALLY PROVEN TO:
    • MAXIMIZE MUSCLE MASS
    • BOOST SEX DRIVE & LIBIDO
    • ENHANCE PERFORMANCE”
  • “…reduce body fat by over 200%”
  • “In a university clinical study, men taking the active ingredient in Androfen significantly increased their testosterone in only 12 hours and reduced their body fat by over 200% versus placebo."
As support for the performance and establishment claims at issue, the marketer submitted several studies on Androfen’s key ingredient, fenugreek (T. foenum-graecum).

Following its review of the evidence in the case record, ERSP determined that the marketer provided a reasonable basis for claims that Androfen will improve libido and sexual performance and promote fat loss.

However, ERSP found that the evidence did not support establishment claims that fenugreek will help to increase muscle and maximize muscle mass. ERSP recommended that these claims be discontinued in the context in which they were presented. ERSP also recommended that the marketer discontinue the claim that “…in clinical studies, it was shown that 85% of test subjects self-reported an improvement in sexual desire.”

ERSP determined that the quantified claim that Androfen will “reduce body fat by over 200%”, as it appears in the online advertising, could be reasonably interpreted by consumers to mean that users will experience a 200% fat loss from baseline. After reviewing the evidence, ERSP recommended that this claim be discontinued in its advertised context.

The company, in its marketer’s statement, said, “Androfen, LLC has great respect for the role of ERSP in seeking to ensure truth and consumer confidence in direct response advertising. It welcomes and appreciates ERSP’s thorough review of advertising for its testosterone boosting product, Androfen. Despite Androfen, LLC’s respectful disagreements with ERSP on these aspects of the muscle mass and body fat claims for Androfen, it nevertheless certainly respects ERSP’s authority and views and therefore will give serious consideration to the recommendations contained in its report.”

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.”