Marketers of "Pinhole" Eyeglasses Settle FTC Charges
That They Made False and Unsubstantiated Claims
That the Glasses Could Correct or Cure Vision Disorders
FTC News Release
October 21, 1993
In four separate cases, three companies and five individuals have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they made numerous false and unsubstantiated claims about the vision-improvement benefits of their "pinhole eyeglasses," which are opaque plastic "lenses" with multiple pinholes. The FTC maintained that, among other things, the defendants represented that the pinhole glasses could correct vision disorders and permanently cure a wide range of vision deficiencies, including farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism. The proposed settlements would prohibit the defendants in the future from making the alleged false claims or engaging in the practices challenged by the FTC. In addition, two of the companies have agreed to provide refunds to all consumers who purchased the pinhole eyeglasses from them.
The purportedly therapeutic eyeglasses were sold under several brand names, such as "Aerobic Glasses" and "Vision Clear Glasses," through advertisements in newspapers, magazines, television and mail-order catalogs nationwide. The retail price of the eyeglasses ranged from $19.95 to $49.95.
The FTC filed four separate complaints detailing the charges in federal courts in California, Wisconsin and New York. Named in the complaints are: Natural Vision International, Ltd., based in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and its officers, Larry Lindwall and Robert Bonk; National Syndications, Inc., a New York City firm, and its owner, Anthony R. Pironti; Professional Product Research Co., Inc., a Brooklyn, New York company, and its owners, Leonard Feldman and Larry Brown; and California-based John App, a shareholder in Natural Vision at the time of the alleged actions and the sole owner of Natural Vision Products, an unincorporated firm that assembled and distributed Natural Vision Inc.'s pinhole glasses. National Syndications also has agreed to settle unrelated FTC charges regarding deceptive marketing of an exercise device marketed under the brand name "Speed Shaper."
The FTC complaints cite numerous statements in the defendants' advertisements and promotional materials that touted the vision-improvement benefits of the glasses. Among other things, according to the complaints, the advertisements and promotional materials made representations that wearing the glasses a few minutes each day could improve or restore the wearer's vision and correct specific vision problems. The ads also allegedly represented that wearing the glasses could eliminate the wearer's need for prescription glasses or contacts. In addition, Natural Vision, National Syndications and John App allegedly claimed that certain eye exercises performed in conjunction with wearing the pinhole glasses would improve vision by strengthening eye muscles.
In fact, the FTC complaints say, contrary to the defendants' representations:
- the use of pinhole eyeglasses does not result in long-term vision improvement in these vision problems;
- pinhole eyeglasses do not cure, correct or ameliorate specific vision problems;
- they are not an adequate substitute for prescription lenses or contact lenses; and
- the defendants' eye-exercise programs do not strengthen muscles or improve vision; nor do they reduce or eliminate the need for prescription lenses.
The FTC also charged that Natural Vision, National Syndications and John App made false and unsubstantiated representations that their pinhole eyeglasses are an adequate substitute for sunglasses. According to the complaint, however, the glasses cause the pupils of the eye to dilate, thus letting in additional ultraviolet rays. In addition, the FTC alleged that various consumer testimonials and endorsements used by these defendants do not reflect the typical or ordinary experiences of consumers who used the pinhole glasses or the defendants' eye exercise program. Moreover, the FTC charged that Natural Syndication misrepresented that a "consumer endorsement" by John App was the endorsement of an individual who was independent of the defendants. In truth, the FTC alleged, at the time of the endorsement, App was a part owner of the manufacturer of the glasses.
Finally, the FTC alleged that National Syndications deceptively marketed an exercise device called the Speed Shaper. The firm's advertising contained statements that represented that using the device will significantly flatten, trim or reduce the user's stomach, hips, thighs or arms; will break down, burn or reduce fatty tissue; will expand the chest and bust; will improve endurance by strengthening the heart and respiratory functions; and is superior to other exercise programs. In fact, the FTC charged, these claims were false and National Syndications did not have a reasonable basis for making them.
The proposed consent judgments to settle the charges would prohibit the defendants in the future from making the specific representations challenged by the FTC. Each defendant also would be permanently prohibited from making any representation about the benefits or performance of any medical device or vision-related program unless it can substantiate the representation with competent and reliable scientific evidence. For National Syndications, the marketer of the Speed Shaper, the above prohibitions include any exercise product or device.
The proposed consent judgments also would prohibit the defendants from misrepresenting the results of tests or studies. Those defendants who allegedly used deceptive testimonials would be prohibited from misrepresenting that an endorsement is typical of the ordinary experiences of consumers. The consent judgments with National Vision International and Professional Product Research Group also would require them to provide copies of the judgment to past and future purchasers of their products for resale, to institute a reasonable program of surveillance adequate to reveal whether their future purchasers for resale are making deceptive or false claims, and to terminate those who continue to make deceptive claims.
Finally, the proposed consent orders with Professional Product Research and National Syndications would require them to provide refunds to consumers. In each case, these defendants would be required to contact purchasers of their pinhole glasses by mail and offer them full refunds. The proposed orders set out detailed provisions regarding timetables and refund-notice language for the two redress programs. National Syndications would be required to deposit $313,000 into an escrow account to guarantee the availability of redress funds. Natural Vision and John App are not required to pay redress but, if they are found to have misrepresented their financial condition, the FTC settlements may be reopened to seek redress.
The five-member Commission vote to file the complaints and proposed consent judgments was 5-0. The settlements are subject to court approval. The documents were filed by the FTC as follows:
- Natural Vision, in US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee, on Oct. 20;
- National Syndications, filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Suffolk County Branch, on Oct. 18;
- Professional Product Research, filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn, on Oct. 18; and
- John App, in US District Court for the Central District of California, in Los Angeles, on Oct. 19.
- (Natural Vision) Civil Action No. 93-C-1150 (Eastern District of Wisconsin). FTC File No. 922-3097.
- (National Syndications) Civil Action No. CV-93-4705 (Eastern District of New York, Suffolk County Branch). FTC File No. 922-3096.
- (Professional Product Research) Civil Action No. CV-93-4704 (Eastern District of New York). FTC File No. 922-3139.
- (John App) FTC File No. 922-3183.
This page was posted on August 27, 2006.