Arizona Company Agrees to Pay $200,000 to Settle FTC Charges
It Made False Health Claims about Bee-Pollen Products
FTC News Release
December 30, 1992
The CC Pollen Company, a Phoenix-based firm, and its owners have agreed to pay $200,000 to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they falsely represented that products containing bee pollen could cause consumers to lose weight, alleviate permanently their allergy symptoms, and reverse the aging process, among other claims. The FTC also alleged that some of the claims were made in "infomercials" that CC Pollen misrepresented to be objective news or documentary programs, rather than the paid ads that they were.
The FTC also charged CC Pollen's principals, Bruce R. Brown, Carol M. Brown, and Royden Brown, all of Phoenix (collectively, CC Pollen). All have signed the proposed settlement agreement.
Under that agreement, announced today for public comment, CC Pollen would pay the $200,000 as disgorgement of profits. In addition, among other things, CC Pollen and the individual respondents would be prohibited from making the specifically-alleged false claims, and required to have scientific evidence to support any other health-benefits claims they make about any food or other product for human consumption, in the future. Further, the settlement would prohibit the respondents from producing or distributing any advertisement that is represented to be something other than a paid ad, and require them to prominently disclose in all future infomercials they create that the programs are paid ads.
According to the FTC's complaint detailing its allegations, CC Pollen advertised and sold products containing bee pollen in various forms, and promoted the products in print ads and through program-length television commercials, or "infomercials." The infomercials were titled, "The Search for the Fountain of Youth" and "TV Insiders."
The FTC attached the ads and infomercial scripts to its complaint, and cited language from both. For example, according to the complaint, the program host for the "Insiders" infomercial referred to "this installment" of the program, and the "hundreds of letters" the program had received from viewers. In addition, the FTC cited the closing language used by the host: "So until our next mission, this is your inside investigator, Vince Inneo, wishing you good health.…" Similarly, the FTC cited the "Fountain of Youth" infomercial host's statement that the program "is not offering any medical miracles, nor are we making any medical claims at all in this report. We're simply going to present the facts as we have found them, so you can explore this phenomenon with us."
Through these and other statements in the infomercials, the FTC charged, CC Pollen falsely represented, directly or by implication, that the infomercials were not paid-for advertisements, but rather independent and objective documentary or news programs.
The FTC also alleged that, in these infomercials as well as the print ads, CC Pollen falsely represented that consumption of bee-pollen products:
- cannot result in an allergic reaction;
- will alleviate permanently all of the consumer's pollen-allergy symptoms;
- slows, prevents, or reverses the aging process;
- can cure, prevent, or alleviate impotence or sexual dysfunction; and
- cause weight loss.
In addition, CC Pollen allegedly represented that bee pollen products are an effective antibiotic for human use. None of these claims are true, the FTC charged.
Under the proposed consent agreement to settle the charges, CC Pollen would be prohibited from creating, producing, selling or disseminating any advertisement that misrepresents that it is not a paid advertisement. In addition, the agreement would impose a mandatory disclosure requirement in all commercials more than 15 minutes in length, as follows:
THE PROGRAM YOU ARE WATCHING IS A PAID ADVERTISEMENT FOR (THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE)
Further, the proposed settlement would prohibit the respondents from making any of the six claims about bee-pollen products alleged in the complaint, unless the statement is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for inclusion in the product's labeling.
The proposed consent agreement would require CC Pollen to immediately cease and desist from making any representations that any of its bee-pollen products will have any effect on the user's health or physical condition, unless the respondents can provide competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate their claims. The FTC defines "competent and reliable scientific evidence" as research, tests or other evidence based on the expertise of qualified professionals in the field, conducted in an objective manner using procedures generally accepted as yielding accurate and reliable results.
Finally, the $200,000 disgorgement payment required by the proposed settlement would have to be paid to the US Treasury — half within five days after the FTC approves the settlement and serves it on the respondents, and the balance within one year.
In a related case announced in 1990, the FTC charged TV Inc., a Florida firm that produced "TV Insiders" for CC Pollen, with misrepresenting that the infomercial was an independent and objective program, and with making false and unsubstantiated health claims about the bee-pollen products promoted in the program. A consent agreement with TV Inc. settled the FTC charges.
Both cases were handled by the FTC's Cleveland Regional Office.
- FTC File No. 902-3145. FTC Docket No. C-3419. Decision, 116 FTC 206.
This page was posted on August 27, 2006.