Mercola.com will pay refunds to consumers who bought its tanning beds and will be permanently banned from selling indoor tanning systems under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The commission charged that Dr. Joseph Mercola and his two companies advertised their tanning systems as safe and claimed that research proves indoor tanning does not increase the risk of skin cancer and can even "reverse the appearance of aging."
“These types of false claims are especially troubling because of the serious health risks posed by indoor tanning,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The fact is, indoor tanning is not safe because it increases the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma.”
The FTC charged that Mercola's ads also falsely claimed that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has endorsed the use of indoor tanning systems as safe, and represented that an organization called the Vitamin D Council has recommended the tanning systems – without disclosing that the council was paid for its endorsement.
The companies – Mercola.com, LLC and Mercola.com Health Resources, LLC – advertised through their websites, Google search ads, YouTube videos, and through email newsletters. The ads claimed that consumers could “Slash [Their] Risk of Cancer” by tanning indoors and “improve the clarity, tone and texture of [their] skin, basically giving [them] a more youthful appearance.”
Mercola brand tanning systems include the D-Lite, Sun Splash, Sun Splash Renew, Vitality, Vitality Refresh, and Vitality D-Lite. The systems sold for between $1,200 and $4,000 each.
Under the settlement, the defendants must pay refunds to consumers who bought Mercola brand indoor tanning systems between January 1, 2012 and the present. An FTC redress administrator will send refund eligibility notices and claim forms to these consumers. Purchasers who want a refund must return the claim form by the date stated in the letter. The defendants are required to pay a maximum of $5,334,067 to cover the cost of refunds and administration of the refund program.