National Advertising Division (NAD)
SmileDirectClub Will Appeal NAD’s Recommendation to Discontinue Claim that Clear Aligners Deliver Results “3x Sooner Than Braces”
For Immediate Release
Contact: Abby Hills, Director of Communications, BBB National Programs
301.412.7769 / email@example.com
New York, NY – July 1, 2020 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) determined that SmileDirectClub, LLC (SDC) substantiated the claims “Pricing: $1895 or $85 per month” and “Getting started is risk-free,” but recommended SDC discontinue the claim that their system delivers results “3x sooner than braces” as well as the claim that SDC customers receive “the same level of care from a treating dentist or orthodontist as an individual visiting a traditional orthodontist for treatment.” The claims at issue were challenged by the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), a professional organization made up of orthodontists. SDC said it will appeal NAD’s decision on its “3x sooner than braces” claim to the National Advertising Review Board.
The following are representative of the challenged express claims, which appeared in online advertising:
SDC provides results “3x sooner than braces.”
SDC customers receive “the same level of care from a treating dentist or orthodontist as an individual visiting a traditional orthodontist for treatment.”
“Pricing: $1895 or $85 per month.”
SDC’s prices are 60% lower than other teeth straightening options.
“Getting started is risk-free. If invisible aligners aren’t a good fit for you, you’ll get your money back.”
SDC is a national provider of aligner therapy treatment administered exclusively via a teledentistry platform. The clear plastic aligners marketed by SDC are medical devices intended to treat mild-to-moderate tooth malocclusion. After being qualified as a candidate by state-licensed dentist or orthodontist, the consumer is provided with a prescription for aligners and instructions for use.
NAD determined that SDC’s claim, “Pricing: $1895 or $85 per month” conveys a truthful message regarding the treatment costs associated with SDC’s product. Further, NAD determined that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for its claim, “Getting started is risk-free.” NAD concluded that, in the context in which it was presented, a reasonable consumer would understand that the claim is limited to the cost of the impression kit, and not the entire aligner system. The relevant material limitation (i.e., the fact that the risk-free offer is contingent on the determination by an SDC dentist that a consumer was medically unqualified for SDC treatment) is clearly and conspicuously disclosed.
With regard to the advertiser’s “3x sooner than braces” claim, NAD determined that it would be reasonable for consumers to take away the message that the typical SDC consumer would obtain the same results for a similar level of treatment in one-third of the time it would take for a typical braces patient to obtain the same results. However, NAD concluded that the SDC’s evidence did not provide a reasonable basis for the claim and recommended that it be discontinued.
NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim that SDC customers receive “the same level of care from a treating dentist or orthodontist as an individual visiting a traditional orthodontist for treatment.” NAD determined that the evidence in the record fails to establish the level of care provided through in-person orthodontic treatment and consequently, fails to establish a benchmark against which the advertiser may compare its own level of care.
Finally, during the course of this proceeding, SDC agreed to voluntarily discontinue the claims that its prices are “60% lower” and “costs 60% less” than braces and other teeth straightening options. Therefore, NAD did not review these claims on the merits.
In its advertiser’s statement, SDC stated that it “will appeal a portion of NAD’s decision,” referring to the recommendation to discontinue the “3x sooner than braces” claim. SDC further stated that it “supports the self-regulatory process” and was pleased with NAD’s findings with regard to its pricing claim and “risk-free” claim, and that it would comply with NAD’s recommendation regarding discontinuation of the claim that it offers “the same level of care from a treating dentist or orthodontist as an individual visiting a traditional orthodontist for treatment.”
About the National Advertising Division: The National Advertising Division (NAD), a division of BBB National Programs, provides independent self-regulation and dispute resolution services, guiding the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for advertising truth and accuracy, delivering meaningful protection to consumers and leveling the playing field for business.
About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs is where businesses turn to enhance consumer trust and consumers are heard. This independent, non-profit organization enhances trust, innovation, and competition in the marketplace through the development and delivery of cost-effective, third-party self-regulation, dispute resolution, and accountability programs. BBB National Programs’ 10 leading industry self-regulation and dispute resolution programs resolve business issues of national and international importance, and fosters industry best practices in truth-in-advertising, child-directed marketing, data privacy, and dispute resolution. To learn more about industry self-regulation, visit bbbprograms.org.