"I do not believe in the type of marketing that makes a woman not feel amazing in her own skin,” Adi Arezzini, CEO of "detox" tea company Teami Blend told The Independent last fall. “Personally, I am not a stick skinny woman and I do not promote that in our marketing.”
That may be true, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a few other problems with Teami's marketing efforts, mostly that the company made "deceptive health claims"—including suggesting that its teas could help customers lose weight, fight cancer, "unclog arteries," decrease migraines, and prevent colds and flus—and that some of its celebrity endorsers did not appropriately disclose that they were being compensated to promote Teami on their Instagram accounts.
The FTC says that it sent a warning letter to Teami in April 2018, one that required all of the company's Instagram endorsers to clearly disclose that they were being paid to promote the company without hiding that info behind the 'click here for more' parts of their photo captions.
Teami seems to have shrugged off that warning, so the FTC followed up with a formal complaint and a proposed court order, one that imposed a $15.2 million judgment against the company. (That number represents the total sales of the products in question). According to a statement from the FTC, the judgment will be suspended upon payment of $1 million—because Teami doesn't seem to have enough cash to pay the full amount.
“Social media is full of people peddling so-called detox teas, promising weight loss,” Andrew Smith, the Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “Companies need to back up health claims with credible science and ensure influencers prominently disclose that they’re getting paid to promote a product."
The 10 influencers who were named in the FTC complaint included Cardi B and former American Idol star Jordin Sparks, along with Adrienne Bailon, Katya Elise Henry, Jenicka Lopez, Princess Mae, Leyla Milani-Khoshbin, Darnell Nicole, Alexa PenaVega, and Brittany Renner.
They also each received a sternly worded letter from the FTC which said, in part, that going forward, they had to "make obvious [their] financial or other relationship with the brand by clearly and conspicuously disclosing any material connection in the same post that [they] make the endorsement." It also clarified that "clearly and conspicuously" meant that those disclosures couldn't be tucked behind the "More" section of their Insta-captions.
"Influencers should be on notice," FTC commissioner Noah Phillips echoed after the settlement was announced. "If you have a brand affiliation, you must clearly and conspicuously disclose material connections to the brand."
Or maybe we could all just agree that "detox teas" are scams, and stop patronizing companies that suggest otherwise? Just a thought.