MonaVie’s Media Center is informing people about new FTC guidelines effective Dec. 1st, 2009. That lead them to release these 4 tips (well they released 5, but the 5th one isn’t very important):
Truthful and Typical
“MonaVie distributors who provide testimonials online AND offline must be truthful AND be subject to typical results… testimonials about MonaVie products or money making opportunities must conform to MonaVie approved statements… While distributors may not think of themselves as ‘advertisers’ nor their individual stories as ‘endorsements’ the new guidelines seem to explain otherwise. An endorsement is any advertising message… that would imply is the opinion, experience, belief or finding of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser.”
Analysis: It would now seem to violate FTC guidelines to say that you even believe or your experience with MonaVie was related to anything medical-related. That can not be considered “typical results” with the exception of mentioning plant sterols in MonaVie Pulse. One way a distributor could get around this is the “I am not a MonaVie distributor, but…” line that many have seen before. Of course such claims should have zero weight in your decision of whether to buy MonaVie because of the high likelihood that it really is a distributor just trying to sneak around the FTC’s guidelines. This is another why MonaVie medical testimonies are pointless
MonaVie gives two examples of poor claims:
- MonaVie says:
“MonaVie Pulse restored my eyesight.” â€“ While that maybe an honest opinion, it is not a typical result, and therefore, any such opinion posted online or said offline would be in violation of the current guidelines, unless there is valid research to support the claim.
Analysis: Kudos to MonaVie for giving a clear example. It is, however, quite sad that they think “MonaVie Pulse restored my eyesight” is a statement of “an honest opinion” and not one of scientific fact (it either did or did not restore your eyesight). They would have been wise to make it more clear by saying, “I believe MonaVie Pulse restored my eyesight”, which is an honest opinion that is not typical.
- MonaVie says:
“I made $25,000, in one month with MonaVie, and you can too.” While this statement may be trueâ€¦the result is not “typical”. Such statements would be in violation of the current guidelines. Whenever discussing earnings, you should refer to the Income Disclosure Statement and provide the link or the actual document.
Analysis: Nicely done by MonaVie to give a money example. It would seem that distributors can’t talk dreams of becoming Black Diamonds either without referencing the Income Disclosure Statement and showing people that the odds are up there with some lotteries.
Distributor Disclosure Mandatory
“Distributors must disclose their relationship or identify themselves as a MonaVie independent distributor when making comments in regards to MonaVie or MonaVie products on blogs, websites, message boards, social networking sites (ex. Facebook, Twitter, etc.), etc… Posting the disclosure simply on your blog or social networking page is not enough; you must also do so when posting comments.”
Specifically MonaVie points out this FTC guideline:
“Example 8: An online message board designated for discussions of new music download technology is frequented by MP3 player enthusiasts. They exchange information about new products, utilities, and the functionality of numerous playback devices. Unbeknownst to the message board community, an employee of a leading playback device manufacturer has been posting messages on the discussion board promoting the manufacturer’s product.
Knowledge of this poster’s employment likely would affect the weight or credibility of her endorsement. Therefore, the poster should clearly and conspicuously disclose her relationship to the manufacturer to members and readers of the message board.”
Analysis: As mentioned above MonaVie distributors must disclose their relationship and identify themselves. Whether they heed this guideline or choose to thumb their nose at the law seems to be one of his/her own person honor code. There doesn’t seem to be anything that would stop a distributor from using the “I am not a MonaVie distributor, but…” defense.
It should be noted that MonaVie headquarters is guilty of violating example 8 themselves so they should already be in trouble with the FTC if these guidelines apply retroactively. If not, at least they should now issue a statement that what they did was wrong.
MonaVie and the Distributor is Liable
The FTC guidelines say:
“Endorsements must reflect the honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experience of the endorser. Endorsements may not imply, suggest, or express any representation that may be deceptive. Endorsers and Advertisers are liable for any false or deceptive statements or for failing to conspicuously disclose required information.”
MonaVie reminds its distributors:
“When one becomes a distributor for MonaVie, you are not just representing yourself, but also MonaVie. As such, under the new guidelines both can be held liable for possible violations. While many of our distributors have compelling stories or testimonials of benefits MonaVie products may have provided for them, as a distributor, these testimonials can be regarded as endorsements and are thus subject to the new guidelines.”
Analysis: A long time ago, I compared MonaVie to Napster. Both Distributors and MonaVie themselves claimed that they can’t be held accountable for the bad apples. Napster tried this defense when its users were stealing music. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. MonaVie now seems to acknowledge this in light of the FTC guidelines. No longer can Larsen say “It’s next to impossible like herding cats.” The FTC can simply respond with, “find a new way of distributing your juice or don’t distribute it.”
FTC is going after “Health” Companies
MonaVie quotes Richard Cleland, FTC assistant director, division of advertising practices, from the Fast Company:
“‘I realize there are hundreds of thousands of bloggers out there. Enforcement on a case-by-case basisâ€“that’s not even a realistic approach. There are other types of enforcement, surfing the Internet, finding companies that are making significant health claims about products, identifying where problems exist. We’d alert Web sites to potential problems and then invite them to contact us about questions of compliance. I don’t think it’s a matter of the enforcement side being weak but the most cost-effective tool in our arsenal. In this case, we’re going to rely more on voluntary compliance than prosecution. That’s the most likely source that we’ll be able to use to identify a problem, and if we do see a problem at a ground level and then ask the right questions, we’ll figure out why there’s a problem pretty quickly and go from there.’ Also, Cleland adds, ‘Competitors are very quick to turn people in. I’ve never suffered from a shortage of competitive complaints.‘”
(The bolding is emphasis from MonaVie.)
MonaVie follows with their own quote:
“In researching to obtain clarity on this subject, Cleland repeatedly cited ‘acai berry’ sites as making outrageous claims, and even hinted such sites might not receive a warning.”
Analysis: MonaVie bills themselves as one of the leaders in the acai berry business. It would be logical that if Cleland is citing the “acai berry” repeatedly, MonaVie would be one of the first companies in the FTC’s aim of fire. One has to question how long MonaVie has before the FTC takes action. It can’t be wise building a business on something so shaky.
Originally posted 2009-12-02 16:04:45. Republished by Blog Post PromoterThe above article is intended to be accurate at the time of its original posting. MonaVie may change its pricing, product, or other policies at any time without notice.
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