Company Must Pay $1.35M For Claiming Copper-Infused Sleeves Relieve Chronic Pain

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 11.14.52 AMSlapping on a knee brace or wrapping your ankle might provide a bit of comfort for aches and pains related to physical activity, but who wants to do all that work when slipping on copper-infused compression clothing can take all your pain away? That seems like a simple, easy way to rid yourself of severe and chronic pain and inflammation, you know, if it were actually backed by science. But it apparently wasn’t, and now athletic apparel company Tommie Copper must pay for that little oversight – to the tune of $1.35 million.

The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday that it had reached a proposed settlement [PDF] with Tommie Copper and its founder, Thomas Kallish, to resolve allegations the company deceptively advertised that its copper-infused compression clothing would relieve pain and inflammation caused by arthritis and other diseases.

According to the FTC’s complaint [PDF], since 2011 New York-based Tommie Copper advertised the copper-infused compression garments in infomercials, brochures, social media, and print media such as Arthritis Today magazine without “competent and reliable scientific evidence” to back up its claims.

The garments, which include sleeves, braces, shirts and socks, sold for $29.95 to $69.50 each, generating an estimated $87 million from April 2011 to October 2014.

Infomercials for Tommie Copper featured a well-known talk show host (and payday loan apologist) exclaiming that “Tommie Copper truly is pain relief without a pill.”

Other ads featured celebrity and consumer testimonials claiming that Tommie Copper garments alleviated pain caused by multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and fibromyalgia.

“Love this product. I have been having issues due to RA [Rheumatoid Arthritis] with swelling and pain in my left knee . . . . Since wearing the [Tommie Copper] knee sleeve, it has kept my knee from swelling, decreasing my knee pain at the end of the day . . . . Thanks for creating a great product!” a user of the products said in a brochure.

The marketing also claimed the products could provide pain relief comparable to, or better than, drugs or surgery.

“I had a torn cartilage in my knee years ago …. I was scheduled for surgery September 11, 2012 to have another knee replacement on my right knee,” one user says in a Tommie Copper YouTube advertisement. “I had gone to the gym and I limped in one day, my right knee was bothering me. So, one of the guys saw me in the gym and said, what’s the matter with you? I said, wow, my right knee is bothering me, I’ve probably got another bad knee …. [H]e threw me a Tommie Copper sleeve. I put it on, great. Next day I saw him, I said, … you got to get me another one for my replaced knee because it feels that good. I put them on and I have not taken them off since. I have not done surgery [sic] and I am not going anywhere near the surgeon’s knife. I am fine just the way it is.”

The FTC alleges that claims included in Tommie Copper’s ads were deceptive as they contained false or unsubstantiated information.

Under the proposed settlement, Tommie Copper and its founder must pay $86.8 million, however that judgment will be partially suspended after the payment of $1.35 million to be distributed to consumers deceived by the company.

If the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition, the total amount will immediately come due.

With the settlement Tommie Copper and its founder do not admit or deny any of the allegations levied by the FTC.

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