FTC Charges Manufacturer of Suntanning Devices Falsely Claimed
That Its Products Do Not Increase the Risk of Skin Cancer
Consent Agreement Prohibits False and Unsubstantiated Claims
FTC News Release
December 17, 1987
The Federal Trade Commission has charged one of the country's largest manufacturers of artificial tanning devices with making false claims that its products do not pose the risk of skin damage, including the risk of skin cancer. A consent agreement issued today for public comment prohibits Sun Industries Inc. from misrepresenting the safety of its products.
Sun Industries manufactures and sells tanning devices and related products, including tanning beds, facial units, and overhead lamp systems. According to the FTC staff, Sun Industries markets its products to tanning salons, health clubs, and beauty salons as well as to individuals, primarily through independent distributors located throughout the country. It markets its products under such trade names as SunTana SunSystem and SunMate.
In magazine, television and radio ads, as well as in promotional literature, Sun Industries made claims such as: "Enjoy the luxury and convenience of a proven and safe UVA tanning system. Other ads claim, "For efficient tanning year 'round without the harmful side effects often associated with natural sunlight." In addition, the company claimed in some ads, "There's no harsh glare, so no goggles or eye shades are necessary."
According to a complaint issued with the consent agreement, these claims are false. Specifically, according to the complaint, Sun Industries falsely claimed in ads and promotional materials:
- that its devices could be used without risking the harmful side effects associated with exposure to the sun, including the risk of developing skin cancer;
- that its devices could be used safely without eye protection; and
- that it had reliable scientific evidence for its claims.
In addition, the complaint charges, Sun Industries acted deceptively when it used such terms as "safe" and "no harmful side effects," but failed to disclose the risk of eye injury and the increased risk of skin cancer and skin aging.
In fact, according to the complaint, use of Sun Industries' products can increase the risk of developing skin cancer, its devices cannot be used without the risk of any harmful side effect associated with the sun, and they cannot be used safely without protective eyewear. The consent agreement prohibits the company from misrepresenting that use of a tanning device does not pose a risk of any harmful side effect to the user.
The complaint charged that Sun Industries falsely claimed it had a reasonable basis for its claims. Under the consent agree ment, the company must have reliable and competent scientific evidence for any health or safety claim it makes in any advertisement.
For one year after the consent is made final, Sun Industries must include the following statement in any ads and promotional materials for its tanning devices, "NOTICE — Read the mandatory FDA warning label found on every tanning machine for important information on potential eye injury, skin cancer, skin aging and photosensitive reactions." After the first year, the company must include that statement in any ads that claim its tanning device is safe or safer than other devices or other methods of tanning, or that the device has health benefits.
Sun Industries Inc. is based in Jonesboro, AR.
- FTC File No. 852-3213. FTC Docket No. C-3230. Decision, 110 FTC 511
This page was posted on August 27, 2006.