Monday, March 11, 2013

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Attorney General Abbott Resolves Health Claims, Marketing Issues with Tanning Salon Operators

AUSTIN – The State of Texas today resolved its enforcement action against a tanning operation that unlawfully claimed that indoor tanning beds can increase levels of Vitamin D in the body and have health benefits. According to an investigation and referral by the Texas Department of State Health Services, Houston-based Darque Tan deployed an advertising campaign that improperly claimed that customers at its 60 indoor tanning facilities would benefit from increased Vitamin D levels – which the company said would reduce cancer risks.

Under state law, tanning bed salons can only advertise that the use of indoor tanning beds darkens the skin but cannot claim that tanning improves the health of customers. Further, a device such as a tanning bed cannot be marketed on the basis of its health benefits unless its use for that purpose has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Despite those legal requirements, Darque Tan – which is only authorized to provide tanning services for cosmetic purposes – improperly claimed that its tanning beds offered unique health benefits. Specifically, Darque Tan’s online videos and advertising material boasted of its tanning beds’ capacity to “deliver” elevated Vitamin D levels to the body. Darque Tan also included videos on its website that linked ultraviolet light with a decreased risk of breast cancer.

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Final Judgment against Darque Tan, LLC

The settlement agreement reached today prohibits Darque Tan from continuing to market its services unlawfully and bars the defendant from asserting that its tanning beds are safe or otherwise free from health risks.

Darque Tan LLC, Segler Enterprises Ltd. and company president Robbie Segler were named defendants in the State’s enforcement action. In addition to the injunctive provisions governing the defendants’ future advertising campaigns, today’s agreement also requires Darque Tan to pay the State $88,000 in civil penalties and $45,000 in attorneys’ fees. The Texas Department of State Health Services will also receive $8,520 for its investigative costs.

A San Antonio-based Darque Tan franchise, Tan Biz LLC, and its owners, Monica and Jason Jones, were also named defendants in the case. Under a separate agreement with similar injunctive provisions, the San Antonio-based defendants must pay $20,000 in civil penalties to the State of Texas.