The FTC recently announced that consumers who purchased a Mercola Indoor Tanning System will get a full refund. Your BBB brings you details of the case.
The FTC filed a complaint against Dr. Joseph Mercola and his two Illinois-based companies in April of 2016. Among other things, the FTC alleged that Dr. Mercola and the defendants falsely claimed that their indoor tanning systems were “safe, that research proves indoor tanning does not increase the risk of melanoma skin cancer, and that its systems can reverse the appearance of aging.” Here are some of the actual statements Dr. Mercola and the defendants made concerning their tanning systems:
- “New Study Shows Tanning Beds Decrease Melanoma Risk”
- “A Healthy Tan Will Actually Reduce Your Risk of Deadly Skin Cancer”
- “[Researchers] found that increased tanning bed use was NOT associated with melanoma.”
- Using the Sun for Skin Cancer Prevention”
- “Forget creams and surgery—this puts collagen back to the surface of your skin to fill in wrinkles, helping you reverse the appearance of aging.”
Furthermore, in promoting the tanning systems, Dr. Mercola and the defendants claimed that “The FDA strictly controls the indoor tanning industry by setting standards for proper use of equipment—they have endorsed indoor tanning devices as safe.”
In fact, an FDA article on indoor tanning, states “Exposure to UV radiation—whether from the sun or from artificial sources such as sunlamps used in tanning beds—increases the risk of developing skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).”
Another claim by Dr. Mercola and the defendants was that the products were “Recommended by the Vitamin D Council.” What they failed to disclose is that the defendants arranged for the Vitamin D Council to be compensated for its endorsement.
According to the terms of the settlement, Dr. Mercola and his companies agreed to pay $5.3 million in refunds to the people who bought his products after January 1, 2012, and who filed a claim form by the October 31, 2016, deadline. Refund checks in amounts of between $1200 and $4000 were sent out on February 7, 2017.
In addition, the defendants are banned from marketing and selling indoor tanning systems, and if they sell other devices, they are prohibited from making false or unsubstantiated health claims. They also have to disclose any material connection they have to people or groups endorsing or reviewing any devices they advertise, sell, or distribute.
The FTC urges consumers to deposit or cash their refund check within 60 days. They also remind consumers that they never require people to pay money or provide account information to cash refund checks. If consumers have questions about the case, they may contact the FTC’s refund administrator, Rust Consulting, Inc. at 1-877-418-8082.
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