Major Infomercial Producer Charged with Making
False and Unsubstantiated Claims, and
Shipping Products without Buyer's Consent
FTC News Release
October 30, 1991
The Federal Trade Commission today issued an administrative complaint charging Synchronal Corporation — one of the country's largest producers of program-length television commercials or "infomercials" — and others with making false and unsubstantiated claims about the efficacy of a purported cellulite treatment and a purported baldness cure. The products at issue are the Anushka Bio-Response Body Contouring Program and the Omexin System for Hair.
The FTC also charged that Synchronal enrolled its customers without permission in an automatic shipping program to receive additional supplies of the products when they did not order them. The FTC's complaint names Synchronal and three related companies; the principals of those companies, Ira Smolev, Richard E. Kaylor and Thomas L. Fenton; and two individuals who appeared in the infomercials as "expert endorsers" of the products.
According to the FTC, Synchronal has broadcast "Cellulite Free: Straight Talk with Erin Gray," an infomercial advertising the Anushka Program. Through the infomercial, the FTC's complaint charges, the respondents have made false and unsubstantiated claims that use of the products will reduce or eliminate cellulite and will cause weight loss and a substantial reduction in hips and thighs, and that is has been effective for thousands of women. Ana Blau (known professionally as Anushka) appears on the infomercial to endorse the products as a purported expert. The complaint charges that Blau did not rely upon a reasonable basis for the representations she makes.
Synchronal also broadcast "Can You Beat Baldness?" a 30-minute infomercial for the Omexin System for Hair. The FTC's complaint charges the infomercial made false and unsubstantiated claims 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. Dr Steven Victor appeared on the infomercial to endorse the product as a purported expert. The complaint charges that Victor did not have a reasonable basis for his representations about the product.
The FTC complaint also challenges as deceptive the format of the advertising, charging that some of the respondents falsely represented the two infomercials to be independent television programming and not paid commercial advertising.
In addition, the complaint charges that once customers ordered the Anushka products or the Omexin System for Hair, Synchronal in many cases automatically shipped them bimonthly supplies of the products without their consent or knowledge and billed their credit cards for the purchases. This practice is unfair and deceptive and has caused substantial consumer injury, according to the complaint.
Further, according to the complaint, once Synchronal had consumers' credit card numbers on file, its telemarketers contacted consumers offering them a free supply of Chae Basics, a skin care product. If consumers agreed to try the free supply but did not return the product within 30 days, Synchronal billed them for the merchandise, enrolled them in an automatic shipment program without their consent, and billed their credit cards without authorization, the FTC alleged.
If the FTC's charges are upheld following a hearing by an administrative law judge, the FTC said it could prohibit the two infomercials from airing again. The FTC's notice order indicates that the Commission also could prohibit the respondents from making the kinds of representations alleged in the complaint for any cellulite-reduction or baldness-treatment products, unless the claims are true and the respondents possess competent and reliable scientific evidence to support such claims. In addition, the respondents could be required to have substantiation for claims about the performance or benefits of any food, drug or other product they advertise. The Commission also could prohibit the respondents from representing that any advertisement is an independent program, and could require clear and prominent disclosures at the beginning of any infomercial and immediately before each presentation of ordering instructions noting that the program is a paid advertisement. Also, the notice order states that if the facts concerning respondent Ira Smolev are found as alleged in the complaint, the Commission's final order could require him to obtain a bond as a condition of doing business.
Further, the Commission's final order could prohibit the sale of any product by means of an automatic shipment program without first disclosing to consumers prior to enrollment all terms and conditions of the plan, including cancellation procedures, and obtaining the consumer's consent. The FTC could prohibit the companies from shipping goods without the recipients' expressed consent unless the merchandise includes a clear statement that the recipient may treat the merchandise as a gift.
Finally, the FTC could prohibit Synchronal from sending additional merchandise to customers who receive the Anushka products or Omexin through an automatic shipment program without first informing them of the FTC's determination in this case and giving them the opportunity to cancel further shipments.
The FTC's administrative complaint names as respondents: Synchronal Corporation, Synchronal Group, Inc., Smoothline Corporation, and Omexin Corporation, all of the New York metropolitan area; Ira Smolev, Richard E. Kaylor, and Thomas L. Fenton, who are or were officers and directors of Synchronal; and expert endorsers Ana Blau (a/k/a Anushka) and Steven Victor, MD.
- FTC File No. 892-3115. FTC Docket No. D-9251.
- FTC File No. 892-3141. FTC Docket No. D-9251.
- FTC File No. 892-3200. FTC Docket No. D-9251.
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This page was posted on August 27, 2006.