Remaining Respondent in Case against Infomercial
Producer Agrees to Settle Charges
FTC News Release
February 3, 1994
Thomas L. Fenton, of New York City, has agreed to settle charges stemming from his role in an infomercial for a purported baldness cure at issue in the Federal Trade Commission's case against Synchronal Corporation. The FTC charged that Fenton made false and unsubstantiated claims in the infomercial for a product called Omexin. The proposed settlement would permanently prohibit Fenton from disseminating the "Can You Beat Baldness?" infomercial, and from misrepresenting that any commercial is an independent program. The settlement also would prohibit Fenton from making unsubstantiated claims for any food, drug or device in the future.
An administrative complaint detailing the FTC's charges was issued October 1991, and named as respondents, four corporations (including Synchronal Corporation), three corporate respondents (including Fenton), and two "expert endorsers" who also appeared in the challenged infomercials. The complaint alleged, among other things, that the respondents made false and unsubstantiated claims for Omexin and a purported cellulite treatment — "The Anushka Bio-Response Body Contouring Program."
With the exception of Fenton, all of the respondents have previously settled with the FTC, and Synchronal has paid $3.5 million into a consumer redress fund.
In October 1993, the FTC issued an amended complaint against Fenton, limiting the allegations against him to those with respect to the Omexin infomercial. The amended complaint alleges that Fenton, as an officer and director of Synchronal, represented, among other things, that Omexin:
- contains an ingredient that was scientifically proven to curtail hair loss and promote hair growth for a large majority of balding men and women;
- contains an ingredient that, for a large majority of men and women, curtails hair loss or promotes the growth of significant numbers of new, pigmented terminal hairs where hair previously has been lost; and
- has successfully curtailed hair loss and promoted new hair growth for thousands of balding men and women.
According to the complaint, these representations were false and Fenton did not have a reasonable basis for making them.
The complaint also alleges that Fenton falsely represented that the Omexin infomercial was independent programming rather than a paid advertisement; and that the consumer testimonials in the infomercial reflected the typical experience of consumers who used the product.
The proposed settlement to these charges, announced today for a 60-day public comment period, would prohibit Fenton from disseminating the "Can You Beat Baldness?" infomercial. In addition, Fenton would be prohibited from making the kinds of representations alleged in the complaint for any baldness-treatment products, unless the claims are true and he possesses competent and reliable scientific evidence to support the claims. Fenton also would be required to have scientific substantiation for claims about the performance or benefits of any food, drug or device he advertises in the future, and is prohibited from misrepresenting the contents, validity, results, conclusions, or interpretations of any test or study.
Additionally, he would be prohibited from representing that any advertisement is an independent program, and would be required to disclose, at the beginning of any infomercial and immediately before each presentation of ordering instructions, that the program is a paid advertisement. Further, Fenton would be prohibited from representing that any endorsement of a product or service is the typical or ordinary experience of consumers, unless such representation is true.
Finally, the proposed settlement contains various reporting provisions designed to assist the FTC in monitoring Fenton's compliance with the settlement provisions.
The Commission vote to accept the proposed consent agreement for public comment was 5-0.
- FTC File Nos. 892-3200; 892-3141; 892-3115. FTC Docket No. 9251.
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