The first item is dated January 21, 2005. Unfortunately, ConsumerLab didn't learn from this statement.
Read the letter from attorney, Marc Ullman on December 8, 2009, qualifying ConsumerLab's continuing compromised position. They still aren't exhibiting what I consider to be solid ethics.
January 21, 2005
Tod Cooperman, M.D.
President, ConsumerLab.com, LLC
Dear Dr. Cooperman:
On January 13, you circulated a letter to your e-mail list expressing dismay and disappointment about the fact that CRN has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission requesting an investigation of your unfair and deceptive business practices. I assure you that we at CRN were also dismayed and disappointed when we recently learned the full details of the business plan underlyingConsumerLab's activities. Providing independent testing of our industry's products is a noble goal.
Pressuring companies to pay for testing in order to guarantee that positive results are given prominent attention and that negative results are hidden, while suggesting to consumers that you reveal all results, is far from noble.
Your letter admits to the very business practices about which we are complaining, but in a manner so oblique that only those of us who fully understand the ConsumerLab business plan will comprehend the admission.
You say that it is "false and absurd" for us to claim that companiesare pressured to pay a fee "to avoid unfavorable publicity for negative test results." Yet you go on to describe exactly such a system, and your description is entirely consistent with our description of your business practices in our FTC complaint.
You assert that ConsumerLab publishes findings "for all the productsthat we choose to test, whether they pass or fail." (emphasis added) The casual reader might interpret this clever phrasing to mean that ConsumerLab publishes all test results, period -- but in fact this policy of full disclosure applies only to one of ConsumerLab's two parallel testing programs. Full passing and failing results are disclosed only for the random testing program (e.g., the products you "choose to test").
Moreover, test results for these products are available only on the private subscriber ConsumerLab website.
Full disclosure does not apply to ConsumerLab's second testing program, the Voluntary Certification Program, in which companies must pay to participate. As your letter indicates, for this program you "publish the names of products that pass." (emphasis added) In fact, those passing results are the only results that will appear for paying products. As we know from interviewing our member companies and from reading the contracts that have been shared with us, companies that pay the fee are assured that if they fail the testing, neither the name of the company nor the identity of the failing product will be revealed on the public or private portion of the ConsumerLab website or anywhere else.
To pressure the companies to pay a fee to obtain maximum public exposure for positive results and to quash negative results amounts to a shake-down, which we are asking the FTC to stop. We are not complaining about the existence of the testing program, but about the unfair business model upon which it is based.
The deception of consumers occasioned by this business model lies in leading the public to believe that ConsumerLab is independent of industry, which it is not, and that all test results are revealed, which they are not. As the central focus of our complaint, we are asking the FTC to require that all future test results be revealed in a fair and complete manner, without regard to payment received. This should create a level playing field for the companies and fuller disclosure for consumers -- goals we believe are essential to yourexpressed mission, as stated in your letter, of "exposing problems in the supplement industry and helping consumers identify better quality products."
Annette Dickinson, Ph.D.President
Honorable Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman, FTC
Honorable Orson Swindle, Commissioner
Honorable Thomas B. Leary, Commissioner
Honorable Pamela Jones Harbour, Commissioner
Honorable Jon Leibowitz, Commissioner
Open Letter to Dr Todd Cooperman of Consumerlabs from Marc Ullman via Natural Food Merchandizer Dec 8, 2009.
Dear Dr. Cooperman,
While I was reading my copy of The New York Times today, I noticed that you once again could not pass up the opportunity to slam the industry that you have attached yourself and your company to and use to make your living. Given the manner in which you generally promote your company, I was not surprised to see you comment that "We haven't found any brand with a broad product line that makes every product well? in The Times article entitled "What's Worth Paying For When Buying Vitamins." Though, I will admit that I am somewhat curious how the companies that pay Consumerlab.com membership fees feel about your suggestion that even they may not be making "every product well."
What was surprising however is that in this article you endorse a couple of "drug store"? brand products as well as Puritan's Pride "a catalog and online retailer"?. The Federal Trade Commission recently issued revised Guides concerning the mandatory disclosure of financial relationships between experts who endorse a product and the manufacturer/producer of that product. You can find information the on FTC's website discussing the new Guides here.
Puritan's Pride, and I believe at least one of the drug store brands whose products you endorsed, have paid for memberships in your company, Consumerlab.com. These new FTC Guides therefore would seem to require that you disclose the financial relationship between Consumerlab.com and the products you are endorsing.
Your failure to let the consumers that you claim to be so interested in protecting know that the companies you are endorsing pay at least part of your salary seems to be, at best, a grave oversight.
Ullman, Shapiro & Ullman, LLP