|For Immediate Release
April 4, 2008
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
OCDA SETTLES $1 MILLION CONSUMER PROTECTION CASE AGAINST NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENT COMPANY FOR UNFAIR BUSINESS PRACTICES
SANTA ANA – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) obtained a $1,025,000 settlement in a Consumer Protection action yesterday against an Internet nutritional supplement company for engaging in unfair business practices. Vitalife, Inc. (Vitalife) was previously enjoined in 2001 for similar violations. Vitalife, headquartered in Irvine, CA, also operates under the name Tabak’s Health Products and sells nutritional supplements and cosmetic products nationwide through mail orders and over the Internet.
In June 2001, the OCDA obtained an injunction against Vitalife that prohibited delaying refunds to customers, making false or misleading advertising claims, and required that Vitalife remove consumers from their mailing lists if the consumer requested to be removed, among other terms. Vitalife violated the 2001 injunction by continuing to participate in unfair business practices.
Since the signing of the 2001 injunction against Vitalife, over 200 complaints were filed with the Better Business Bureau by customers complaining that Vitalife failed to provide them with refunds when requested. Vitalife also sent automatic shipments of products to customers who hadn’t ordered the product, charged the customer for the unwanted products, and failed to provide refunds when the product was retuned.
Additional terms of the settlement require Vitalife to cease all false advertising, including making claims that products contain specific ingredients that are not present in the products.
Investigation by the OCDA also revealed that Vitalife was selling nutritional supplements containing lead without warning labels. California Health and Safety Code section 25249.6 requires all products containing more than .5 micrograms of ingestible lead be marked with warning labels. Laboratory tests revealed that certain lots of at least two Vitalife products, Thermaway and Slimtrac, contained over twice the .5 microgram threshold lead level. Thermaway and Slimtrac are marketed by Vitalife as weight loss supplements. Vitalife will be required to include warning information with all products marketed to California residents containing specific lead levels.
Vitalife will pay $1,025,000 in civil penalties and costs without admitting fault or liability. Vitalife has agreed to strict injunctive terms to prevent unfair or deceptive business practices in the future. They are required to pay full restitution to consumers who filed complaints with Vitalife, the Better Business Bureau or the OCDA between June 1, 2001 and March 31, 2008.
As a condition of the settlement, Vitalife must send letters to all past and currents customers who filed complaints offering the customer the opportunity to request a refund. Vitalife must show proof to the OCDA that they sent the mailing and provided refunds on all verified claims.