Napa County will receive $88,693 as part of a multi-county settlement with the maker of a nutrition supplement for alleged false advertising, according to court documents and the Napa County District Attorney’s Office.
Under the settlement, Sensa Products LLC of Delaware agreed to pay civil penalties and legal costs adding up to a total of $800,000 to nine district attorneys’ offices, including $88,693 to Napa. The other district attorneys’ offices include Marin, Monterey, Orange, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma and Santa Cruz counties.
The order was signed by a judge in Santa Cruz County on Nov. 20, according to the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office.
While not admitting guilt, Sensa, which marketed weight-loss products nationwide online and in stores, agreed to a number of stipulations.
“One of the agreements or stipulations in the judgment against Sensa is that they will not market any products in the future without having the proper substantiation of proof that the product works in the manner advertised,” said Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein in an email. “Additionally, they will cease the practice of charging customers for products after they have canceled their order, as well as changing their policies to set very clear parameters prior to entering a customer in an automatic shipment program without their express consent. They are also ordered to clearly set forth in writing their refund policy.
“The advertisements for Sensa included a claim that their product had been clinically proven in the largest clinical study ever conducted. In order to make such a claim, Sensa needed to provide competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate the claims,” Lieberstein continued. “My reaction is consistent with the policies of our consumer units, that is, that the message needs to be clear to companies such as Sensa Products that we will not and cannot allow them to deceive the public through false and deceptive advertising into buying beauty products that are unproven and simply do not work.”
Lieberstein said the funds collected are used to run the consumer unit, pay for future investigations and attorney salaries. The unit, which includes two full-time attorneys, a part-time attorney, one secretary and a part-time investigator, costs about $425,000 a year, he said.
“The underlying concept of (district attorneys’) consumer units is to protect the public from unfair business practices and false advertising from companies such as Sensa who market a dietary product through untrue or unsubstantiated promises of results such as weight loss without dieting or exercising,” Lieberstein said.