Trudeau Infomercial Empire Assailed

Surprisingly enough, coral is not a cure for cancer, and a piece of adhesive tape cannot magically alleviate chronic pain.

He didn't exactly admit those claims were bogus, but TV infomercial guru Kevin Trudeau (Shop America LLC) has promised the Federal Trade Commission never to make such claims about a pair of products, Coral Calcium Supreme and Biotape, that he has been hawking in a 30-minute TV infomercial since 2002 on cable channels including PAX, We, Oxygen, Comedy Central, Discovery, Travel, History Channel, and Bravo.

Trudeau will have to pay $500,000 and turn over a house and vehicle to settle the suit. If the FTC finds he understated his assets to avoid a bigger hit, he will owe the government $20 million.

Trudeau's days touting the electronic-age equivalent of any brand of snake oil-like substances  appear to be over. Under the broad deal, he has agreed not to appear in, produce or distribute any infomercial that advertises "any type of product, service, or program to the public," though the FTC makes an exception for "truthful infomercials for informational publications." No FTC spokespeople had returned calls trying to determine just what that caveat would cover.

Whatever infomercials or ads he can make, they can't be for quick (or quack) cures. According to the settlement, "Trudeau cannot make disease or health benefits claims for any type of product, service, or program in any advertising, including print, radio, Internet, television, and direct mail, regardless of the format and duration."

"This ban is meant to shut down an infomercial empire that has misled American consumers for years," said Lydia Parnes, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in announcing the settlement. "Other habitual false advertisers should take a lesson; mend your ways or face serious consequences."

The FTC has been trying to crack down on deceptive health claims, including chiding cable for not doing a good enough job of screening its ads for facially false claims.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.