Wednesday, March 22, 2017

5 Hour Energy Used Deceptive Ads, Court Says

In the battle for energizing American citizens, advertising claims have ranged from the silly (Red Bull “gives you wings”) to the scientific. But a Washington state court recently ruled that 5 Hour Energy crossed the line when it made claims about the medical benefits of its product.

5 Hour Energy Makes Medical Claims to Win Customers

The energy drink 5 Hour Energy is produced by a Michigan company, Living Essentials, based in Farmington Hills. To get a competitive advantage, in 2012, 5 Hour Energy created its “Ask Your Doctor” ad campaign. The company claimed that 5 Hour Energy’s unique blend of caffeine, B-vitamins, and other ingredients kept customers going better, and lasted longer, than a premium cup of coffee. They also adopted tag lines like “hours of energy, no crash later” in their commercials.

Consumer Protection and Deceptive Ads

But the Washington Attorney General said the medical claims made by 5 Hour Energy were deceptive ads that violated federal and state consumer protection laws.

Federal truth-in-advertising laws, protects consumers from deceptive ads published by companies eager to get an edge over their competition. The Federal Trade Commission says:
“When consumers see or hear an advertisement, whether it’s on the Internet, radio or television, or anywhere else, federal law says that ad must be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence.”
Washington’s Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, said 5 Hour Energy didn’t have the science to support its claims of medical benefits. He said the “Ask Your Doctor” campaign was made up of deceptive ads.

Washington Court Cuts Off Medical Advertising

In October 2016, Washington Superior Court Judge Beth Andrus agreed. She ruled Living Essentials had violated the Consumer Protection Act when:
  • It published deceptive ads claiming 5 Hour Energy lasts longer than a cup of coffee because of the synergistic effect of its ingredients
  • It issued a press release saying that Decaf 5-Hour Energy would provide energy, alertness, and focus for hours.
  • It published its deceptive “Ask Your Doctor” ads.
However, the court found against the Washington Attorney General on the “no crash” ad campaign, or that the caffeinated version of the drink promoted energy, alertness, and focus.

As a result of these findings, the court recently ordered Living Essentials to pay over $2 million in damages and another $2 million in attorney fees and costs. The Final Judgment also permanently prohibited the company from running similar advertising in the future without the scientific evidence to back those ads up.

When manufacturers claim their products have medical benefits, consumers should be on high alert against deceptive ads. Without scientific research to back up the claims, these ads violate the consumer protection act and put users at risk.

Dani K. Liblang is a consumer protection attorney at The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., in Birmingham, Michigan. If you have been the victim of deceptive ads, contact The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., for a free consultation.

Image Source: 5-Hour Energy by Mike Mozart via (edited for size)

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