Cosmetics company L'Oréal USA, Inc. has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges of deceptive advertising about its Lancôme Génifique and L'Oréal Paris Youth Code skin care products. According to the FTC's complaint, L'Oréal made false and unsubstantiated claims that its Génifique and Youth Code products provided anti-aging benefits by targeting users' genes.
"It would be nice if cosmetics could alter our genes and turn back time," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "But L'Oréal couldn't support these claims."
In national advertising campaigns that encompassed print, radio, television, Internet and social media outlets, L'Oréal claimed that its Génifique products were "clinically proven" to "boost genes'" activity and stimulate the production of youth proteins that would cause "visibly younger skin in just 7 days," and would provide results to specific percentages of users.
Similarly, for its Youth Code products, L'Oréal touted—in both English- and Spanish-language advertisements—the "new era of skin care: gene science," and that consumers could "crack the code to younger acting skin."
Charging as much as $132 per container, L'Oréal has sold Génifique nationwide since February 2009 at Lancôme counters in department stores and at beauty specialty stores. The company has sold Youth Code, which costs up to $25 per container at major retail stores across the United States, since November 2010.
Under the proposed administrative settlement, L'Oréal is prohibited from claiming that any Lancôme brand or L'Oréal Paris brand facial skin care product targets or boosts the activity of genes to make skin look or act younger, or respond five times faster to aggressors like stress, fatigue and aging, unless the company has competent and reliable scientific evidence substantiating such claims. The settlement also prohibits claims that certain Lancôme brand and L'Oréal Paris brand products affect genes unless the claims are supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Finally, L'Oréal is prohibited from making claims about these products that misrepresent the results of any test or study.
The Commission vote to accept the consent agreement package containing the proposed consent order for public comment was 4-0-1, with Commissioner McSweeny not participating.
The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning June 30 and continuing through July 30, 2014, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit written comments electronically or in paper form by following the instructions in "Supplementary Information" section of the Federal Register notice. Comments should be submitted electronically using the form at this link. Instructions for submitting comments in paper form are listed in the "Accessibility" portion of the form.
NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC's website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.