WASHINGTON, D.C. — The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced this week that it is settling charges against a group of Florida business entities, and its owner, over deceptive advertising claims for the MSA 30x sound amplifier device. The company had claimed in advertising that the device is “independently tested to help you hear up to 30 times better.”
Under a court order settling the FTC’s complaint, the company will be barred from making similar unsupported claims in the future, and from representing their claims as being based on scientific evidence if they are not.
Deceptive Advertising for Hearing Amplifier
According to the complaint, Global Concepts Limited, Inc., based in Deerfield Beach, Florida (which conducted business under names: Global TV Concepts, Ltd., GCL Product Holdings, LLC, and MSA 30X LLC) had “deceptively advertised MSA 30X to consumers nationwide, in violation of the FTC Act”.
According to the FTC complaint, Laurie Braden, the principal owner, and the corporate defendants, advertised and sold nearly three million of the rechargeable amplifying devices between 2012 and 2017.
Sales through major retailers, like CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, and directly to consumers online and through TV advertisements, generated total sales of $47.2 million.
Advertisements on TV often featured consumers frustrated by being unable to hear in restaurant or at home watching television, but when using the MSA 30x amplifier they had their problems resolved. One particular commercial, used as evidence against the company’s practices, a wife complains about how loud her husband has the television turned up. When using the MSA 30X amplifier, the husband is then suddenly able to watch television at a more moderate volume and then claims he can now “hear everything clearly.” The ad goes on to claim that the device was “independently tested” to help consumers “hear up to 30 times better.”
One such ad can be seen in the video below:
Similar claims have been made on various company websites selling the devices.
The defendants were unable to provide adequate evidence to the FTC that the MSA 30X amplifier actually helped consumers hear better in the advertised situations, nor were there any independent tests showing the MSA 30X helped consumers hear “thirty times better”.
The proposed court order that settles the FTC’s charges includes the following:
The order prohibits the defendants from making any efficacy claims about any device they sell, not just the MSA 30X, unless the claim is not misleading, and at the time it’s made, the defendants have the scientific evidence necessary to support it. Further, the order prohibits the misrepresentation of test results or studies, and requires them to keep records of certain human clinical tests and studies used to back up such claims.
A judgment of $47,203,036 was imposed against the defendants in favor of the FTC, which will be partially suspended after they pay a fine of $500,000. “If the defendants are later found to have misrepresented their financial condition to the FTC, the total amount of the judgment will become due”.
According to the announcement, the FTC filed the complaint and proposed court order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.