Monat has found itself in hot water over alleged deceptive business acts and practices.
An investigation by the Florida Attorney General into violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA), has resulted in Monat entering into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC).
The Florida AG’s investigation examined Monat’s conduct beginning June 2014 to present.
Following consumer complaints, alleged FDUTPA violations the Florida AG investigated include:
- Monat offering discounts but failing to notify consumers of required additional purchases;
- Monat falsely claiming their products exclude ingredients such as polyethylene, glycol, petrochemicals, sulfates, harmful fragrances and gluten;
- Monat falsely claiming their products are “100% vegan”;
- Monat falsely claiming their products are “clinically proven to produce desired results”;
- Monat falsely claiming “government entities” had certified it “as being clean, honest in everything (Monat does)”;
- Monat charging consumers for products not received;
- Monat charging consumers for products not ordered; and
- Monat charging consumers without written authorization.
Consumers reported to the Florida AG that that Monat failed to respond to enquiries, issue refunds, cancel their customer accounts or accept returned goods.
This conduct appears to be in line with Monat’s corporate policies. In response to mass order cancellations in 2018, Monat spokesperson Gene Grabowski claimed;
there is not a constitutional right to complain about a company.
A company has a right to respond any way it wants to.
The Florida AG notes that Monat “fully cooperated” during the course of her investigation.
In an attempt to support their marketing claims, Monat
produced thousands of pages of clinical studies that demonstrate the safety and efficacy of (their) products.
Monat also claimed it ‘acted reasonably and in good faith and conducted its business fairly and honestly’.
The Florida AG “took no position” on Monat’s submitted documentation or claims, suggesting she wasn’t convinced.
As part of the AVC, Monat has agreed to permanently cease from
- making false or misleading representations to consumers;
- making misleading claims about the health benefits, safety, performance or efficacy of Monat’s products;
- making claims about their products unless Monat is in possession of “competent and reliable scientific evidence” to support such claims;
- claiming any Monat product “causes hair loss because your scalps is detoxifying, and the hair follicles are enlarging”;
- claiming any Monat product “is clinically proven to increase hair growth;
- claiming any Monat product can “significantly decrease hair loss”;
- claiming any benefits derived through the use of Monat’s products are “scientifically proven”;
- claiming “independent lab tests confirm the safety and effectiveness of” any of Monat’s products;
- stating Monat’s products do not and will never contain polyethylene, glycol, petrochemicals, sulfates, harmful fragrances and harmful fragrances;
- stating Monat’s products are “100% vegan or gluten free”;
- using “before and after” style advertising to market Monat’s products;
- represent to consumers that Monat offers a “100% money-back, satisfaction guarantee”;
- misrepresenting Monat’s refund, returns, cancellation, exchange and repurchase policies;
- using stock photos to market Monat’s products;
- billing consumers unless explicit written authorization is granted;
- not honoring advertised prices;
- not providing consumers with refunds as per Monat’s refund policy;
Monat is also responsible for ensuring their employees and distributors adhere to the terms of the AVC.
The AVC will see the Florida Attorney General drop their investigation into Monat. For five years going forward however, the Florida AG’s Office reserves the right to gain access to Monat’s physical business locations, interview any Monat staff and “inspect and copy” any requested documents.
Monat has also not admitted to any FDUTPA violations, but as a result of the Florida AG’s investigation has refunded harmed consumers “at least $82,781”.
Monat will also cover the Florida AG’s $250,000 legal costs.
Any consumers who filed a complaint with the Florida AG from June 2014 to are also entitled to refunds, provided they file another complaint detailing dollar losses.
This must be done within 180 days of the AVC, which was entered into on August 13th, 2020.
The Florida AG reserves the right to take further action should Monat fail to comply with the AVC.
Reading between the lines, it’s doubtful Monat would have entered into an AVC if the Attorney General’s investigation didn’t carry weight. Not withstanding Monat paying a quarter of a million to cover the AG’s legal fees.
If all of this alleged deceptive conduct was going on Florida one imagines the same is or has been going on elsewhere across the US.
Whether Monat’s alleged conduct in Florida triggers a federal FTC investigation however remains to be seen.