Athletic Gear Maker Endorsed by Montel Williams Settles with FTC

Tommie Copper to Pay $1.35 Million but Consumers May Not Receive Money

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Montel Williams in an ad for Tommie Copper compression garments.
Montel Williams in an ad for Tommie Copper compression garments.

Montel Williams once told an infomercial audience that Tommie Copper compression garments could not only give consumers their motion and strength back, but "your life back" as well. Now the Federal Trade Commission has settled with the Westchester, New York-area firm for $1.35 million, arguing that the company couldn't back up its claims.

The FTC on Tuesday announced its settlement with the company, which the agency said settled charges that Tommie Copper deceptively marketed its copper-infused compression sleeves for wrists, backs, knees and other areas prone to pain, claiming they relieved severe and chronic pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia and other conditions.

Infomercials at other moments showed Mr. Williams promising, "Tommie Copper truly is pain relief without a pill," the FTC said.

The settlement, the amount of which is based on the company's ability to pay, is intended to alert consumers to the allegations and "signal to advertisers that they really need to have a strong basis for their claims before they disseminate them," said Carolyn Hann of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

It is unclear whether people who purchased Tommie Copper products will receive any money as a result of the settlement. "Our hope always is to administer consumer redress where it's feasible," said Ms. Hann. "It depends on the amount of money received and the number of affected consumers."

Tommie Copper sponsors charity race events and its products show up on athletes in magazine spreads. A recent issue of Self Magazine featured tennis player Ana Ivanovic donning Tommie Copper wrist sleeves. According to Ms. Hann, the FTC settlement won't prevent the company from continuing such marketing activity. Rather, it requires the company "to have competent and reliable scientific evidence before making future claims about pain relief, disease treatment, or health benefits."

Jonathan Franks of Lucid Public Relations, a spokesman for Mr. Williams regarding the FTC settlement, posted a statement on Twitter noting that the relationship between Mr. Williams and Tommie Copper "ended years ago." He added that Mr. Williams is "not a party to the FTC action."

While Mr. Williams endorsed the company's products, it is the company that hired him that is at fault in the settlement, said Ms. Hann. "We take the view that the advertiser ultimately is responsible."

Tommie Copper did not respond to a request to comment for this story.

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