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Supplement Marketers To Pay Nearly $70 Million In Consumer Refunds

Thursday August 27, 2009

Products made range of unsupported claims
James Limbach

Consumeraffairs.com - A federal district court has ordered the marketers of two dietary supplements -- "Supreme Greens" and "Coral Calcium" -- who claimed the products would cure ailments ranging from cancer and Parkinson's disease to heart disease and autoimmune diseases to pay nearly $70 million for deceiving consumers about the products' effectiveness and safety.

The court also froze the assets of some of the defendants.

In July 2008, the court found that infomercial pitchman Donald W. Barrett and his affiliates deceptively touted the supplement Supreme Greens to treat, cure, or prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. Barrett also deceptively claimed that the product could cause dramatic weight loss and could safely be taken by children, pregnant women, and people on medication.

In addition, Barrett marketed a second dietary supplement, Coral Calcium, which the court found he and the other defendants deceptively claimed could treat cancer, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases; could be absorbed in greater quantity and more quickly than other calcium products; and could be completely absorbed by the body. Barrett also wrongfully claimed that scientific research had proven calcium supplements could prevent, reverse, or cure cancer in humans.

ConsumerAffairs.com has received a number of complaints about Coral Calcium.

• Maggie from Vineland, N.J., wrote that six weeks after taking the product, "I started noticing body aches, not joint but muscle aches. The pain grew more severe on an accelerated basis I felt like an invalid for months with terrible muscle aches that greatly restricted my day to day life, both personally and work related."

• Al of El Dorado Hills, California, tells ConsumerAffairs.com, "I bought the coral calcium from the bogus claims they said, and it never did anything for me."

The Federal Trade Commission charged Barrett, his associate Robert Maihos, and two companies they control -- Direct Marketing Concepts, Inc. and ITV Direct, Inc. -- with making these unlawful claims regarding Supreme Greens and Coral Calcium, and with making unauthorized credit and debit charges. The FTC also charged three other defendants -- Allen Stern and two companies he controls -- with deceptively marketing Coral Calcium.

The court froze the assets of Barrett, Maihos, Direct Marketing Concepts, and ITV Direct and ordered them to pay $48.2 million for consumer refunds. It also barred them from making deceptive claims about Supreme Greens and Coral Calcium; misrepresenting that scientific research validated their claims; making any health, performance, or efficacy claims about any food, drug, dietary supplement, cosmetic, or device unless such claims are true, non-misleading and substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence; failing to disclose that promotional programming is, in fact, a paid advertisement; and billing consumers or charging their credit or debit cards on an ongoing basis without their consent.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ordered Stern, King Media, Inc., and Triad ML Marketing, Inc. to pay $20.4 million for consumer refunds.

It also barred them from making deceptive claims about Coral Calcium; misrepresenting that scientific research validated their claims; and making any health, performance, or efficacy claims about any food, drug, dietary supplement, cosmetic, or device unless they are true, non-misleading, and substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.