The Federal Trade Commission brought a landmark case against electric tweezer manufacturer Removatron. It set a precedent for certain types of punitive requirements due to the egregious nature of their deceptive marketing practices. The case is still widely cited to this day in related legal action.
On 2 October 1985, the FTC charged electric tweezer Removatron with deceptively advertising that the product can permanently remove hair. At that time, FTC estimated consumers spent about $37.5 million on these devices and treatments.
On 23 July 1987, Judge Montgomery Hyun upheld the FTC’s 1985 complaint and forced the company to include in all promotional material the following:
“IMPORTANT: There is no reliable evidence that Removatron provides anything more than temporary hair removal.”
(Removatron International Corp., 111 F.T.C. 206 (1988), aff’d, 884 F.2d 1489 (1st Cir. 1989))
On 22 November 1991, FTC modified the cease and desist order so Removatron didn’t have to continue including a statement with their packaging that their claims of permanence have not been substantiated.
The Commission declined, however, to hold that the evidence is sufficient to support a claim by Removatron that the device provides permanent hair removal. The company is still prohibited from making unsubstantiated hair-removal claims.
On 9 November 1988, FTC Commissioner Terry Calvani issued a decision upholding a Judge Hyun’s 1987 ruling.
The Commission also charged respondents with falsely claiming that they possessed a reasonable basis for their permanency claims.
Removatron International Corp. sells an electronic device called “Removatron,” that removes hair with tweezers that transmit radio waves to individual hair roots. Respondents claimed that the Removatron hair removal method eventually destroys the hair tissue and prevents regrowth of the hair. The company sells its devices to beauty salons, skin care establishments, and other businesses for about $4,000. They, in turn, sell hair-removal treatments to customers for $30-35 per hour. In 1986, Removatron had an estimated 80 per- cent share of the market for its product.
In concluding that respondents possessed “no clinical evidence whatsoever,” the Commission affirmed the Judge’s finding that respondents did not have competent and reliable scientific tests in support of their claims.
The Commission further stated, “we affirm Judge Hyun’s finding’s concerning the seriousness and deliberateness of Respondent’s violations.”
The FTC landmark case set a precedent for scientific substantiation: “The manner in which the claim is framed has a substantial influence on the level of substantiation required. If the claim purports to be based on scientific testing (an “establishment” claim), the level of substantiation is higher. For example, in Removatron Int’l Corp., the advertiser claimed that its hair removal product had been “clinically tested and endorsed.” The FTC required two clinically controlled scientific tests that would satisfy the appropriate scientific community as to the reliability of the results claimed.”
Full FTC complaint (116-page PDF)