DSSRC Administrative Closure #111
The Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC) contacted a direct selling company that is located outside of the United States regarding two Instagram posts and five Facebook posts disseminated by its salesforce members. The social media post came to DSSRC’s attention pursuant to its independent monitoring of advertising in the direct selling marketplace. Specifically, DSSRC expressed concern that the social media posts communicated that the Company’s products can protect consumers from COVID-19 and treat other health-related conditions.
Four of the social media posts at issue included references that DSSRC determined could be interpreted as communicating that the Company’s product is effective in treating the coronavirus. Two other posts listed a number of serious health-related conditions (i.e., diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.,) next to a picture of the Company’s product which DSSRC interpreted as meaning that the product is effective at treating these specific conditions. The remaining post featured the claim “boost your immune system” and was accompanied by a picture of the product next to an image of a virus particle that DSSRC determined could reasonably be interpreted as the coronavirus.
Although DSSRC does not have jurisdiction of direct selling companies located outside of the United States, the Company that was the subject of this inquiry acquiesced participate in the self-regulatory forum. As DSSRC has noted in a number of previous self-regulatory inquiries, advertising and marketing materials that reference a product’s ability to treat or address the symptoms of health-related conditions must be supported by reliable and competent scientific evidence, which has been defined by the Federal Trade Commission as "tests, analyses, research, studies, or other evidence based on the expertise of professionals in the relevant area, that has been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by persons qualified to do so, using procedures generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results." Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the Food Drug Administration all have stated that there are no approved dietary supplement products currently available to treat or prevent COVID-19.
Lastly, it was determined that social media posts which reference a third-party study that linked an ingredient contained in the Company’s product as being effective for a particular health-related condition can be reasonably interpreted as meaning that the advertised product will similarly be effective to treat the referenced health-related condition. However, DSSRC concluded that such third-party references are not appropriates unless it can be demonstrated that: a) the ingredient was tested at the same dosage level at which it is present in the Company’s product; b) the ingredient was administered to test subjects in the same manner in which the product is directed to be used, and; c) the efficacy of the ingredient would not be offset by the presence of other ingredients in the product.
The Company was extremely responsive to the concerns of DSSRC and immediately removed all seven of the posts that were the subject of the DSSRC inquiry. Based upon the Company’s willingness to participate in the self-regulatory inquiry and its bona fide, good faith actions to remove the social media posts at issue, DSSRC administratively closed its inquiry.
(closed on 12/15/2020)