CogniPrin and FlexiPrin supplement marketers charged by FTC and Maine AG

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Attorney General (AG) of Maine have filed a complaint against nine dietary supplement marketers, including three corporations and six individuals, for their roles in a deceptive campaign to sell a joint health supplement (FlexiPrin) and a cognitive health supplement (CogniPrin) in violation of state and federal laws. The FTC and Maine AG have also jointly announced that six of the marketers (two corporations and four individuals) have agreed to settlements, in the form of proposed stipulated orders, with the state and federal governments.

Complaint

The FTC and the Maine AG allege that XXL Impressions LLC, Jeffrey R. Powlowsky, J2 Response LLP, Justin Bumann, Justin Steinle, Synergixx, LLC, Charlie Fusco, Ronald Jahner, and Brazos Minshew made false and misleading claims that the supplement CogniPrin:

  • reverses mental decline by 12 years;
  • improves memory by 44 percent; and
  • improves memory in as little as three weeks and is clinically proven to improve memory.

And that the supplement FlexiPrin:

  • reduces joint and back pain, inflammation, and stiffness in as little as two hours;
  • rebuilds damaged joints and cartilage; and
  • has been clinically proven to reduce the need for medication in 80 percent of users and to reduce morning joint stiffness in all users.

The complaint alleges that the marketers employed unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the advertising, marketing, distribution, and sale of FlexiPrin and CogniPrin. The marketers also allegedly sold these products directly to consumers, primarily through radio and print advertising nationwide and in Canada, which garnered in excess of $6.5 million in gross sales from January 1, 2012 through April 30, 2015. The complaint specifically alleges that the defendants:

  • made false claims about the efficacy and testing of their products;
  • deceptively enrolled consumers in continuity plans, or automatic monthly shipments for which consumers’ credit and debit cards were automatically charged;
  • when consumers attempted to halt shipments or obtain a refund, they were then told of additional, undisclosed requirements they could almost never abide by;
  • would use stage names and claim medical credentials to promote the products and claim clinical testing that never actually occurred; and
  • deceptively induced consumers to purchase other services such as discount buying clubs or health savings plans which were also difficult to cancel.

Proposed stipulated orders

Marketers Powlowsky, XXL Impressions, J2Response, Bumann, and Steinle have agreed in two proposed court orders to substantial injunctions against making unsubstantiated health efficacy claims. A stipulated order against J2Response, Bumann, and Steinle and a second stipulated order against Powlowsky and XXL Impressions LLC both bar these marketers from making the false or unsubstantiated heath claims challenged in the complaint and require them to have competent and reliable scientific evidence when making health-related claims. The orders also requires these marketers to preserve all scientific evidence supporting claims they make, and bar them from failing to disclose a material connection to a paid endorser. The orders further bar these marketers from misrepresenting the terms of any negative-option, continuity plans, or free trial offers, and require them to get consumers’ express consent before charging them.

In addition, the stipulated order against Powlowsky and XXL Impressions LLC bans them from direct response marketing of foods, dietary supplements, or drugs for 20 years, while allowing the former to continue his manufacturing brokering business.

The stipulated order against Minshew bars him from acting as an “expert endorser” unless he has the expertise he claims to have, and requires him to have scientific evidence to support the product claims he makes.

The stipulated orders impose a $6.57 million judgment against the marketers, with all but $556,000 suspended due to their inability to pay. The stipulated final orders will have the force of law if and when approved and signed by a district court judge upon deciding the case.

The litigation continues as to Fusco, Synergixx, LLC, and Jahner.