Fuel savings, environmental claims unsubstantiated; testing claims false

| Friday, November 30, 2001

The marketers of the Super FuelMAX automotive fuel-line magnet, advertised as providing dramatic fuel-saving and emissions-reducing benefits, have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that their claims were unsubstantiated.

The settlement would bar the Gadget Universe catalog and its CEO from misrepresenting the actual benefits or efficacy of any supposedly fuel-saving or emissions-reducing products for motor vehicles. It would also prohibit misrepresentations about testimonials, endorsements, tests or research.

This case is the latest in a series of FTC law enforcement initiatives targeting unsubstantiated fuel economy and engine performance claims. The FTC previously halted allegedly deceptive advertising by the marketers of Dura Lube, Motor Up, Prolong, Valvoline, Slick 50 and STP engine treatments. Earlier this year, the agency sued Speedway Motorsports Inc. and its Oil-Chem Research Corp. subsidiary to halt false and misleading advertising for zMax auto additives, including claims that zMax increases fuel mileage by a minimum of 10 percent.

According to the FTC complaint, Esrim Ve Sheva Holding Corp., doing business as Gadget Universe, and its CEO, Alexander Elnekaveh, advertised and sold Super FuelMAX through catalog sales and on their Internet site. Advertising for the device claimed, "Here's one the big oil companies don't want you to know about," "Save up to 27 percent on gas" and "The Super FuelMAX ... clamps onto my fuel line, and two powerful neodymium conductors use the scientific principal of magnetic resonance to give me better fuel burn. A certified EPA laboratory reports an amazing 27 percent in increased mileage and 42 percent reduction in harmful pollutants." Graphics in the ads showed unruly fuel molecules lining up in straight columns and rows after passing through the Super FuelMAX. The FTC alleged the ads misrepresented that Super FuelMAX causes fuel molecules to line up in straight columns and rows; improves fuel burn through magnetic resonance; reduces fuel consumption; and reduces harmful emissions or pollutants.

The complaint also alleges the company falsely represented that tests performed at a certified EPA laboratory prove Super FuelMAX increases mileage by 27 percent and reduces harmful pollutants by 42 percent.

Finally, the FTC charged that ads for Super FuelMAX featuring a testimonial from Alexander Elnekaveh endorsing the product did not reflect Elnekaveh's actual experience with the product or the typical or ordinary experience of members of the public who use the product. Therefore, the FTC complaint said, the representations concerning the testimonial were false or misleading.

The proposed settlement would bar the company and its CEO from making unsubstantiated claims in connection with any fuel-saving or emission-reducing product for use in a motor vehicle. The settlement would bar the company from misrepresenting that user testimonials or endorsements of the product reflect the actual and current opinions, findings, beliefs or experiences of the user. It also bars representations that any user testimonial represents the typical or ordinary experience consumers can expect unless the respondents possess and rely on competent and reliable scientific substantiation.

The Commission vote to accept the consent agreement and place it on the public record was 5-0. A summary of the proposed consent agreement will be published in the Federal Register and will be subject to public comment for 30 days, until Dec. 8, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.

For more information on "so-called" fuel-saving products and tips to improve fuel efficiency, see the FTC's consumer publication titled, "Gas-Saving Products: Facts or Fuelishness?" at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/autos/gasave.htm. The FTC also has a new "Energy & Environment" web page, at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/eande/index.html. This web page links to information about fuels and automotive products," including information about FTC enforcement actions and related business and consumer education materials.

Copies of the complaint and settlement are available from the FTC's web site at www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580. To file a complaint, or get free consumer information, call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357), or use the complaint form at www.ftc.gov.

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