On November 28, a Florida business and its owner, who marketed purported height-enhancing pills for kids and young adults, agreed to pay $375,000 to settle charges that their advertising claims were deceptive. The Federal Trade Commission charged the defendants with making false and unsubstantiated claims for HeightMax, as well as for two other supplements, Liposan Ultra Chitosan Fat Blocker and Osteo-Vite.
The operation advertised HeightMax dietary supplements in English and Spanish on the Internet and radio. Ads also appeared in the back pages of magazines such as Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and Maxim. The FTC complaint charged that claims for the pills were unsubstantiated or false and that the defendants invented William Thomson, a supposed expert who appeared in the ads. According to the complaint, the ads for HeightMax Concentrate and HeightMax Plus misrepresented that:
HeightMax increases height in users ages 12-25 over what they would achieve without the product;
• HeightMax causes users to grow an additional two to three inches in six months;
• Clinical tests prove that: 1) HeightMax increases the height of teenagers and young adults; 2) Regular use of HeightMax for six months causes a 10% to 25% gain in height, and 3) use for more than a year causes a 20% to 35% gain in height;
• HeightMax increases lean body mass and reduces body fat in users ages 12-25; and,
• William Thomson, an expert with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, created HeightMax after years of research and clinical trials.
The FTC complaint also alleged that the defendants made unsubstantiated or false claims for Liposan Ultra Chitosan Fat Blocker, a weight loss supplement, and Osteo-Vite, marketed to older consumers for bone-building.
To settle the charges, defendants Sunny Health Nutrition Technology & Products, Inc. and its owner, Sunny Sia, will pay $375,000 in consumer redress. The settlement also holds the defendants potentially liable for $1.9 million in the event that they misrepresented their finances. The order to settle the FTC’s charges requires that claims for any dietary supplement, food, or drug must be true, non-misleading, and substantiated. In addition, it prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting endorsements, including the existence or expertise of any endorser.