SPOKANE -Feb. 13, 2003 - A firm that claims its magnetic mattress pads, seat covers and infrared mineral lamps provide relief for a host of medical conditions has been sued for making unsubstantiated health claims and failing to refund money to dissatisfied consumers, Attorney General Christine Gregoire said.
In a lawsuit filed today in Spokane County Superior Court, attorneys with Gregoire's Consumer Protection Division accused the company, N.W. Global Network, Inc., and its president, Eric Glenn, of violating the state's Consumer Protection Act.
In addition to failing to refund money, the company, which is also known as Global Health Solutions and Natural Wellness Network, is accused of marketing unapproved medical devices, misrepresenting their effectiveness and using unsubstantiated testimonials in promoting the products.
"This fraud took advantage of vulnerable people looking for relief from chronic and sometimes debilitating pain," said Gregoire. "Instead of relief, they wasted their money on an unproven treatment of little or no medical value. When they were unable to get their money back as promised, they were victimized a second time."
According to investigators, the company had been in business since the beginning of 2002. Up until last November, it operated out of an office in North Bend. It then abruptly closed its doors.
According to the complaint, consumers usually received mailings inviting them to dinner presentations touting the products that were "risk free" because the company had a "100% satisfaction guarantee."
Salespeople said the magnetic mattress pads relieved backaches, joint pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia, stiffness, reduced cholesterol and blood pressure, and could help treat sleep disorders. The infrared lamps, the representatives claimed, would "relieve joint stiffness from arthritis or osteoporosis, muscle spasms, and pain from circulatory problems."
According to the complaint, however, the company "cannot produce scientific evidence that is generally accepted in the relevant scientific or medical communities" that shows the devices "produce the health benefits defendants have claimed in oral and written representations to the public."
Furthermore, materials handed out at the dinners claimed that numerous medical professionals worldwide vouched for the devices' effectiveness and also suggested that the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the devices.
In fact, according to the complaint, "to date, the FDA has not cleared for marketing any magnets promoted for medical uses."
The devices were expensive, with king size mattress pads costing $1,698, and magnetic seat covers costing $279 each. The infrared lamps cost $998 each.
Most of the 190 consumers who have filed complaints in recent months - 94 from Washington - say they have not received refunds they demanded. The average consumer lost about $1,200 in the scam, according to attorneys.
Attorneys are seeking an unspecified amount of civil penalties and costs and fees. They will also attempt to obtain restitution from the company, which is currently out of business.