FTC consumer champion has industries making false health claims afraid, very afraid

Adweek profiles FTC consumer chief David Vladeck and his campaign to make yogurt makers, athletic apparel makers, cereal makers and household name firms from Reebok and Skechers to Kellogg's and Dannon to either tell the truth about their health claims or pay. It's a nice piece on the FTC's work and on the longtime consumer champion, who heads back to his Georgetown Law professorship at the end of the year.

Adweek has a nice story “Putting Brands in Their Place: FTC’s David Vladeck leads the charge in the feds’ crackdown on deceptive ads,”  by Katy Bachman.

The story is largely a profile of FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection chief David Vladeck and just one of his many successful efforts to upgrade and restore the FTC’s status as a top consumer cop. The FTC’s will to fight had weakened through the first decade of this century, when it let violations by powerful special interests slide and focused on dime store fraudsters. The story examines FTC’s campaign to make yogurt makers like Dannon, athletic shoe makers including Skechers and Reebok, cereal makers (no, Kellogg’s Mini-Wheats are actually not “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%”), acai berry promoters (“one trick of the tiny belly”), other drinkable patent nostrum sellers including Nestle, and other companies to either tell the truth about their health claims or pay big monetary penalties.
One clue — even though many of these firms are well-known trusted historic brands, they are often fronted by B-list actors or reality show celebrity shills.
Adweek excerpt:

“We try to restore the consumer’s position before the deceptive ad,” says Vladeck. “We wanted to deprive companies of their profits. We don’t want them to profit from misleading the public.” Requiring full refunds for consumers surprised national advertisers because it was a remedy usually reserved for extreme cases and outright fraud. In the past, the FTC simply required companies to stop making dubious claims but did not require full restitution.

Vladeck has also played a key role in the FTC’s recent privacy protection and other law enforcement efforts. At the end of the year, the longtime consumer champion and longtime litigator/director over at Public Citizen heads back to his Georgetown Law professorship.

Hat tip to his former colleague, Allison Zieve, over at Public Citizen Law and Policy blog.


Ed Mierzwinski

Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program, PIRG

Ed oversees U.S. PIRG’s federal consumer program, helping to lead national efforts to improve consumer credit reporting laws, identity theft protections, product safety regulations and more. Ed is co-founder and continuing leader of the coalition, Americans For Financial Reform, which fought for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, including as its centerpiece the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He was awarded the Consumer Federation of America's Esther Peterson Consumer Service Award in 2006, Privacy International's Brandeis Award in 2003, and numerous annual "Top Lobbyist" awards from The Hill and other outlets. Ed lives in Virginia, and on weekends he enjoys biking with friends on the many local bicycle trails.

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