California Attorney General Sues Magnetic Mattress Pad Sellers


Stephen Barrett, M.D.
September 23, 2002

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has filed a lawsuit charging that Florida-based European Health Concepts, Inc. (EHC) made false and misleading claims about its magnetic mattress pads and seat cushions. The complaint, filed in Sacramento Superior Court, also names EHC president Kevin Todd and several sales managers and agents as defendants. The suit seeks more than $1 million in civil penalties for engaging in unfair business practices and making false claims; $500,000 in civil penalties for transactions involving senior citizens; and full restitution for purchasers of the products. The suit also seeks to permanently bar the defendants from engaging in future unlawful business practices in California [1].

Under California law, drugs and devices may not be promoted as having a “curative or therapeutic effect” unless they have been approved by appropriate state or federal agencies. According to the complaint:

  • Prospective customers, primarily senior citizens, were invited to attend a free dinner seminar at local restaurant where they could learn what “prominent physicians and major medical universities” had to say about their products, which were promised to relieve pain, improve circulation and reduce inflammation.
  • EHC unlawfully claimed its mattresses help people suffering from fibromyalgia, lupus, sciatica, herniated discs, asthma, bronchitis, cataracts, chronic fatigue syndrome, colitis, diverticulitis, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and more than 50 other health conditions.
  • EHC’s falsely claimed that its products contained “the only magnets clinically proven” to reduce pain, accelerate healing, and improve circulation.
  • EHC’s sales presentations falsely stated or implied that various celebrities and sports figures—including actors Anthony Hopkins and Dick Van Dyke, former Miami Dolphin’s quarterback Dan Marino, and professional golfer Jim Colbert—benefited from using the products.
  • EHC entered into contracts without giving the proper oral and written notices of cancellation required by law and that when consumers attempted to obtain refunds under the “100 percent satisfaction guarantee,” the company did not provide them on a timely basis.
  • Sales agents offered phony price discounts for purchases made at the seminar that actually were the company’s regular prices [2].
References
  1. Attorney General Lockyer files false claims lawsuit against makers of “magnetic” mattress pads action seeks more than $1.5 million in penalties plus restitution for consumers. News release 02-105, Sept 10, 2002.
  2. The people of the State of California v. European Health Concepts, Inc., Kevin M. Todd, Keith Howard Buttrick, Elaine Barbara Ager Herrington, John Eedley Fitzwater, David Robert Perkins, and Does 1-10. Sacramento County Superior Court Case No. 02AS05440., Filed on Sept 18, 2002.

This page was posted on September 23, 2002.