Lawsuit Filed Against America’s Soup Brand

With an emphasis on healthy living lately, it’s hard to miss the heart healthy checks on Campbell’s Soup cans when you walk down the aisle at the grocery store. A federal lawsuit was filed against Campbell Soup Co. and the American Heart Association stating the soups are not as heart healthy as the certification might suggest. The American Heart Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting cardiovascular diseases and stroke through a heart healthy lifestyle and diet. According to the AHA website, a low sodium product is defined as having 140 milligrams of sodium or less per serving, however, to earn the publicly recognized stamp of approval from the AHA, the product should have no more than 480 milligrams of sodium per serving. This contradiction in standards is what has caught the AHA and Campbell Soup Co. in a lawsuit. Read More

Dr. Drew Accepted GlaxoSmithKline’s Illegal Marketing Money

Prescription Pill Bottle, by Flickr user Charles Williams, licensed via Creative Commons.

Sometimes legal settlements reveal more than just boring dollar amounts.  Last week, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to plead guilty to the illegal marketing of the prescription antidepressant Wellbutrin and pay $3 billion in criminal and civil fines.  This settlement followed a 9-year investigation into the company’s marketing practices by the federal government.  In the process, documents associated with the case revealed that TV physician Dr. Drew was among the “consultants” paid to do this illegal advertising.  So what did Glaxo do, and why was it so bad?  And why would a trusted name in science forsake his neutral and beneficial advice in the name of a pharmaceutical company’s profits (hint: it has to do with money)?  Find out after the break.

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Facebook to Pay $10 Million in Sponsored Story Settlement

Facebook like, by Owen W. Brown at owenwbrown.com, licensed via Creative Commons.A proposed settlement between Facebook and a class of litigants has the social networking company paying $10 million to charity.  The issue at hand was whether Facebook violated California law by using its users’ names and profile pictures to advertise products without paying them and without giving them any way to opt out.  With its “sponsored stories”, users’ “likes” of products were unwittingly posted across their friends’ news feeds.  Companies would pay way more for these stories than a traditional advertisement, with Mark Zuckerberg saying they were the “Holy Grail of advertising”, akin to a word of mouth personal recommendation.  So, if you clicked “like” on a page about bananas, you’d be shown on your friends’ feeds as “John Doe likes bananas, go buy one here”.  Or, in the case of Nick Bergas, your face would be endorsing a 55-gallon drum of personal lubricant.  His story accentuates the main legal problem at issue here:  what if you don’t care about a product you’re shown endorsing?  Worse, what if you don’t want to be shown endorsing anything at all?

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Apple Settles Embarrassing False Advertising Case

Bullet through an apple, by Flickr user "nebarnix", licensed via Creative Commons.While you were gawking at the new kind-of-better-in-some-ways-I-guess Macbook Pro at this week’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple’s law team was quietly paying out a settlement to a Australian government regulators.  Apple shipped their newest 4G-compatible iPhones and -Pads to Australia, where ravenous consumers quickly snatched them up.  There was one catch: the electronics did not actually work with any LTE networks in the country.  Luckily, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission was ready to slap Apple around with a lawsuit, alleging that Apple knowingly advertised this whole 4G business despite being well aware that the technology wouldn’t work.  Sensing an uphill court battle, Apple quickly settled the case (if I had to guess, I’d say it was a pretty clever tactic to hide the negative press among all the buzz for their WWDC event).  The outcome: Apple must pay a fine of $2.25 million to the Australian government, and will also probably have to pick up the tab for $300,000 worth of legal fees.  Though they aren’t required to, Apple is also offering refunds to customers who felt cheated.  What a nice company.

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Skechers Pays $50 Million in False Advertisement Claim

Shoes, by Flickr user "little blue hen", licensed via Creative Commons.
I couldn’t find free-to-license pictures of Shape-Ups, but just imagine regular running shoes with a grotesque protuberance out the bottom.

If you believe wearing a specific shoe without committing to some aerobic or at least extra exercise is somehow going to transform your body from flab to fab, then I’ve got some snake oil to sell you.  Nevertheless, shoe company Skechers (sic) made just that very claim with their line of “workout” sneakers called “Shape-Ups”.  According to the marketing for the shoe, buying this particular brand will by virtue of wearing it work out and “tone” your legs, leading to fat loss and muscularity and all-around healthiness that you will not otherwise attain without the discomfort and strain of actually working out or being all-around healthy.  The company conducted some tests and studies (by well-paid scientists-for-hire) that seemed to support this concept, and produced celebrity endorsements by the likes of quarterback Joe Montana and socialite Kim Kardashian, who claimed that the shoe was so beneficial that she abandoned her personal trainer altogether, relying entirely on the shoe as a sort of workout God-figure.  Surprise surprise, the shoe did not live up to its expectations, and the Federal Trade Commission subsequently sued Skechers to stop spreading nonsense.  Today, the company will pay about $50 million, some of which is in fines and most of which will go to reimbursing dissatisfied customers.  And, of course, the company will have to change its marketing significantly when it reintroduces the shoe next year.

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