I can’t say I’m surprised about the news that Tommie Copper (& Montel Williams) have gotten into some legal issues with the FTC and consumers.
The news originally broke in April/May of this year, when George Potzner filed a lawsuit (April 22, 2015) against Tommie Copper making allegations that Tommie Copper misrepresented the benefits of the brand’s copper-infused compression gear.
According to the complaint, scientifically, copper can’t permeate the skin unless combined with a peptide [small proteins].
Tommie Copper deceived “millions of customers” with its false advertising but still pocketed the money from selling the clothing, the suit says.
Reference: U.S. District Court District of the Southern District of New York case number 7:15-cv-03183
A few days ago, news broke that Tommie Copper came to a settlement with the FTC and will pay $1.35M to settle the complaint on the health claims.
“It’s tempting to believe that wearing certain clothing will eliminate severe pain, but Tommie Copper didn’t have science to back its claims,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement.
Considering the company generated approximately $87M between 2011 and 2014, $1.35M (about 1.5% of revenues) seems about as bad as a gentle slap on the wrist.
Even as Tommie Copper settles with the FTC, there appears to be a separate Class Action lawsuit (1:15-cv-06055, PDF) filed in New York during the summer against Tommie Copper that also names Montel Williams as a Defendant.
A blurb from the lawsuit:
Defendants’ representations and claims, however, are false and misleading. Contrary to Defendants’ claims, Tommie Copper Products do not aid in relieving pain, let alone chronic and debilitating pain such as arthritis or MS. Nor does it: neutralize “free-radicals”; stimulate the immune system to fight infections; repair injured tissues; and/or promote healing.
In fact, clinical tests have found no meaningful therapeutic effect for copper concerning pain, inflammation, physical functioning, and stiffness beyond those of a placebo for patients with pain symptoms.
As far as I can tell, that case is ongoing.
I first wrote about Tommie Copper in mid 2011, and was eager to try them out and test out the “pain reliving” claims the company was making, considering I’ve been suffering with chronic knee pain for well over 10 years.
The company was kind enough to send me some of their gear to try out. I started wearing the gear, and over time, readers starting posting questions in the above article asking me whether or not Tommie Copper would help relieve their pain.
Here’s one such example:
I had ACL surgery in April and I am having trouble bending my knee. Would this brace help me plus my knee is stiff…
My responses to all of these questions has been pretty consistent throughout the years. That is: Good compression, good quality, no notable pain relief.
While I’ve been a fan of the quality of the Tommie Copper product (I still wear my Tommie Copper products today to the gym), and am glad the company makes their products in the USA, I have never truly believed of or experienced any pain relief from wearing the product any more than I would if I were wearing any other compression shirt or knee sleeve.
The idea that the mineral contents of a solid fabric touching your skin could somehow permeate your skin, get keep into your joints, and relieve joint pain, is ridiculous at best.
In the back of my mind I figured it was just a matter of time before something surfaced challenging the claims of the purported “revolutionary” fabric.
While I could be disappointed with Tommie Copper for making false product claims, and I am, I also put equal blame on consumers for blindly trusting what Tommie Copper was claiming was 100% true.
As the old saying goes, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
I believe if you’re going to make a purchase, it should be an educated one. That doesn’t mean doing a couple of Google searches and seeing what comes up. It means taking the right amount of time and energy to fully educate yourself on anything you’re looking to purchase.
If you’re not willing to do the research, then at least take some accountability for your purchase if it doesn’t live up to marketing the hype.
At the same time, I believe that brands should be honest and forthcoming. The sad truth is that some brands are not, and are just out to make a profit.