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April 13, 2020

Deceptive Email Subject Lines Mislead Consumers

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:46 am

With restaurants across the country closed, many hungry housebound people may be ordering takeout or getting home delivery from their favorite eaterie. And to get their share of business, restaurants are sending us enticing emails to increase business.

Promoting $5 or $10 off your next order is a great deal and a common theme of these offers. But, when you open the email the offer is not quite what you envisioned.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Panera $5 off

So, only if you spend $40 or more at Panera, will they give you $10 off.

 

*MOUSE PRINT:

$5 off Qdoba

MrConsumer’s hope that he could get an $8 burrito from Qdoba for only $3 with this $5 off offer was dashed when opening the email to learn that a $25 minimum purchase was required.


Restaurants are not alone in playing this deceptive $5 off game. The leading drug chains, CVS and Walgreens, are both trying to lure in shoppers with their own $5 off offers.

 

*MOUSE PRINT:

CVS $5 off

———————-

Walgreens $5 off

Why can’t these companies just play it straight and say in their subject line “$5 off a $30 purchase” or whatever the minimum purchase is?




• • •

March 30, 2020

Purell Maker Sued for Unsubstantiated Claims

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:21 am

Purell labelJust at the time when consumers nationwide are clearing the store shelves of Purell comes word that the Food and Drug Administration and several private lawsuits are charging the company with making unsubstantiated health claims for its products.

In January, the FDA sent a warning letter to GOJO Industries alleging that as marketed and advertised PURELL® Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizers are unapproved new drugs because of claims like:

  • “Kills more than 99.99% of most common germs that may cause illness in a healthcare setting, including MRSA & VRE”

  • “In a recent study, student absenteeism was reduced by 51% when PURELL hand hygiene products were used in conjunction with a curriculum to teach kids about good hand hygiene[] . . . 10% Less Teacher Absenteeism”

  • “Even though norovirus is highly contagious, there are ways you can reduce the risk of its spread. … Alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol can be used in addition to handwashing . . .”

  • “Is PURELL® Advanced Hand Sanitizer Effective Against Ebola? … [WHO and the CDC] are recommending the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer as a preventive measure during this outbreak . . .”
  • The FDA goes on to say that claims like these suggest that Purell is intended to prevent or reduce disease from Ebola, norovirus, and the flu, but the agency is not aware of any studies that correlate killing bacteria or viruses on the skin with a corresponding reduction of those diseases. As such, because Purell is intended for the “diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention” of disease and thus by definition that makes it is a drug. And an unapproved new one at that. New drugs need to be FDA-approved before being sold.

    The maker of Purell posted a response to the FDA on its website, saying in part:

    It is our responsibility to ensure that we comply with all requirements of FDA regulations and federal law, and we take that responsibility very seriously. To that end, we have begun updating relevant website and other digital content as directed by the FDA and are taking steps to prevent a recurrence.

    At least three consumer class action lawsuits (most recent one here) have been filed against GOJO claiming consumers were misled because the company made 99.99% effectiveness claims without having reliable substantiation.




    • • •

    February 24, 2020

    Are CVS Customers Better Than Most at Taking Their Pills?

    Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

    Prescription adherence, as it is called, is a real problem. About half of prescriptions issued each year are either not filled or the medicine is not taken correctly. (See report.) So if someone has come up with a more effective method to ensure that patients take their drugs properly, that would be good news.

    Along these lines, a curious new claim has recently adorned CVS circulars that asserts that “CVS customers are better than most at staying on their prescriptions*.”

    CVS better than most

    That asterisk goes to a small footnote on the front page of their advertisement.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    “Based on 2019 study of national retain chain customer prescription adherence for diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia medications.”

    Checking the CVS website for further details, the following is displayed:

    CVS better reasons

    So, out of curiosity, we asked the CVS PR folks for a copy of the study, who did it and paid for it, how competitors fared, and whether the study explicitly cited the three elements above as reasons for CVS customers’ superior adherence record. The company only responded with this statement:

    CVS Pharmacy worked with an independent third-party firm to study data for the top dispensed prescriptions in the U.S. across different pharmacy competitors. That data was used to create a campaign educating our customers on the benefits of filling prescriptions at CVS Pharmacy.

    All this seems to say is that CVS paid for the study. We are left guessing as to which competitors did better than CVS, and which did worse. But without seeing the actual study, we simply don’t know if the conclusions that CVS drew are substantiated by it.




    • • •

    February 3, 2020

    Honest Tea Making Less Than Honest Low Sugar Claims

    Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:55 am

    The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says that Honest Tea, a bottled beverage manufactured by The Coca-Cola Company, is making an implied “low sugar” claim that is prohibited by federal law.

    In particular, adorning the top of each bottle of Honest Tea is the claim “Just a Tad Sweet.” Most people would probably understand this to mean that this was a drink low in sugar, and therefore more healthy than a full-sugar drink.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Honest Tea

    A close look at the back label with the nutrition facts disclosure reveals that this 16.9 ounce bottle contains 25 grams of sugar. As we’ve reported previously, most consumers have no idea how to convert metric measurements on product labels to more commonly understood ones. In this case, this “tad sweet” product has six teaspoons of sugar. No reasonable consumer would say that that amounts to just a “tad.” The product is loaded with sugar.

    So CSPI has sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration urging them to take immediate enforcement action against the company, and to consider coming out with rules defining when “low sugar” claims can be made. And a proposed class action lawsuit has already been filed in New York.

    You can learn more about the issue of low sugar claims and Honest Tea here.




    • • •

    December 16, 2019

    Advertising Masquerades as Program Content on TV Talk Shows – Part 4

    Filed under: Health — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:44 am

    While flipping the channels recently, MrConsumer came upon a Dr. Phil episode where they were talking about Medicare advantage plans. For the uninitiated, these are health insurance plans that substitute for original Medicare and pick up the balance of the costs that original Medicare doesn’t cover. Most plans throw in some extra benefits free like eye exams.

    Please watch the four-minute segment below.



    What most viewers may not have recognized is that this entire segment was really a commercial masquerading as a conventional Dr. Phil interview on his program. He introduces the guest as a licensed insurance agent and spokesperson for MedicareAdvantage.com . (Note that “Medicare advantage” is the generic term for a particular type of insurance policy.) Does that introduction put you on notice that you are in essence watching an infomercial or that the program was paid to have her as a guest?

    Some additional disclosures pop up during the segment, but they relate to the average savings and limitations of these plans. In the final 15 seconds of the segment a hard-to-read fine print disclosure comes up on the screen.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Dr. Phil disclaimer

    It says “MedicareAdvantage.com is owned by sponsorship partner TZ Insurance Solutions, Inc. … Paid endorsement…. Dr. Phil does not recommend or endorse any particular plan…”

    Again, has any of this put average viewers on notice while they were watching the interview that this really was a commercial? We think not, and a two-second “sponsored in part by MedicareAdvantage.com” slide in the closing credits comes too late in our view.

    We asked both the Dr. Phil show and CBS’s Senior Vice President of Program Practices whether they believed the minimal disclosures the program made at the beginning of the segment were enough, and what was CBS going to do now to improve notice to viewers given that this is the second time we pointed out the issue. (See our original story calling out The Talk for airing a commercial segment masquerading as traditional program content.) The CBS executive did not respond, but a spokesperson for Dr. Phil said:

    “The integration partner and spokesperson were appropriately identified both at the time the segment ran and in the end credits.”

    We disagree. As a viewer, you are entitled to know upfront if you watching a commercial or a bona fide interview segment where the participants did not pay to appear on the program. We hope both the FCC and the FTC start clamping down on television programs that pass off advertising segments as regular interview segments.




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