Special Report

The 9 Most Misleading Product Claims

1. ADT Pulse
> Company: ADT Corporation
> Industry: Home security

ADT is one of the most recognized names in the home security business, and relied upon by more than six million households and businesses to keep property safe. However, the details of a recently settled suit from the FTC may affect customer confidence in the company’s product. A group of supposedly independent reviewers appeared on various news and talk shows, including NBC’s Today Show to critique ADT’s new systems, ADT Pulse. The problem, alleges the FTC, is that while these reviewers were presented as impartial they were in fact paid by ADT to promote the product. Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said, “It’s hard for consumers to make good buying decisions when they think they’re getting independent expert advice as part of an impartial news segment and have no way of knowing they are actually watching a sales pitch.”

ALSO READ: Companies With the Best (and Worst) Reputations

2. Vitaminwater
> Company: Coca-Cola Company
> Industry: Beverages

Many Americans supplement their diets with vitamins, and one might expect a product called Vitaminwater to have similar nutritional virtue. Glacéau, also known as Energy Brands, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola, marketed Vitaminwater as a vitamin- and mineral-enhanced beverage. Other words such as “defense,” “rescue,” and “endurance,” were also commonly used to advertise the drink. In November 2014, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a class-action lawsuit against Coca-Cola for its deceptive advertising of Vitaminwater. The complaint was one in a series of legal actions taken against Coca-Cola since as early as 2009. While Coca-Cola agreed to change some of its labeling and marketing of Vitaminwater, including the addition of “see nutrition facts for more detail” on all its bottles, the CSPI believes misleading claims regarding the sugary beverage are far from resolved.

3. Plastic Lumber
> Company: American Plastic Lumber, Inc.
> Industry: Construction

California-based American Plastic Lumber Company (APL) manufactures building materials from recycled plastics and other synthetics. The decking composite is advertised as an alternative to more conventional wood materials, boasting far less maintenance, easier installation, and a lower price tag, all with an appearance of wood. While these advantages are fair considerations for builders, many customers have likely chosen APL for its image as an environmentally friendly company. The APL logo is a milk jug topped by a tree superimposed on three rotating green arrows — the universal symbol of recycling. And many of APL’s advertisements have suggested its products are made entirely of recycled materials. APL described its lumber as “the environmentally responsible solution to all of your lumber needs.” In fact, the lumber contains an average of less than 79% re-used content. As a result of the finding, the FTC prohibited APL from making such claims in June last year — its second complaint against the company.