L'Oreal admits it can't target genes

Here's a claim by L'Oreal that made the Federal Trade Commission blush: Some of its skin-care products targeted user genes to keep them looking younger.

Right. Maybe you'd like to buy a very big bridge along with that skin-care cream?

So, cosmetics company L'Oréal USA agreed on Monday to settle Federal Trade Commission charges of deceptive advertising about its Lancôme Génifique and L'Oréal Paris Youth Code skin-care products. According to the FTC's complaint, L'Oréal made false and unsubstantiated claims that its Génifique and Youth Code products provided anti-aging benefits by targeting users' genes.

"It would be nice if cosmetics could alter our genes and turn back time," said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "But L'Oréal couldn't support these claims."

In national advertising campaigns, including print, radio, television, Internet and social media outlets, L'Oréal claimed that its Génifique products were "clinically proven" to "boost genes' activity and stimulate the production of youth proteins" that would cause "visibly younger skin in just 7 days," and would provide results to a specific percentages of users.

Similarly, for its Youth Code products, L'Oréal touted — in both English- and Spanish-language advertisements – the "new era of skin care: gene science," and that consumers could "crack the code to younger acting skin."

Charging as much as $132 per container, L'Oréal has sold Génifique nationwide since February 2009 at Lancôme counters in department stores and at beauty specialty stores. The company has sold Youth Code, which costs up to $25 per container, at major retail stores across the United States, since November 2010.

Under the proposed administrative settlement, L'Oréal is prohibited from claiming that any Lancôme brand or L'Oréal Paris brand facial skin-care product targets or boosts the activity of genes to make skin look or act younger, or respond five times faster to aggressors like stress, fatigue and aging, unless the company has competent and reliable scientific evidence substantiating such claims. The settlement also prohibits claims that certain Lancôme brand and L'Oréal Paris brand products affect genes unless the claims are supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Finally, L'Oréal is prohibited from making claims about these products that misrepresent the results of any test or study.

But the agreement imposes no monetary penalties, and L'Oreal USA does not admit any improper advertising practices.

In a statement, L'Oréal USA chief communications officer Kristina Schake said the claims "have not been used for some time now, as the company constantly refreshes its advertising."

U.S. investors didn't seem to care much. Share of L'Oreal trading on the New York Stock Exchange closed up, slightly.

Now that L'Oreal concurs that it's not targeting genes, will it also admit that it's not targeting jeans?


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