There’s apparently no gray area for a downtown Charleston company as far as the Federal Trade Commission is concerned.
It filed an injunction in U.S. District Court this week to stop GetAwayGrey and its owner and president Robin Duner-Fenter from selling a product that claimed to reverse or prevent the formation of gray hair without human clinical trials.
In court documents, the FTC said it was “false or misleading” and “not substantiated.”
The FTC also went after two other companies in New Jersey and Wyoming.
“These companies claimed their supplements could treat gray hair at its roots,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “In fact, their root problem was a lack of evidence for their claims.”
A federal court order on Thursday fined GetAwayGrey more than $1.8 million, but suspended the penalty provided Duner-Fenter submits financial records for himself and the company after it launched in 2011.
The fine will be reinstated if the court finds he failed to disclose any financial assets.
Duner-Fenter agreed to the FTC’s stipulations, but vowed to prove the product works.
“I’m unhappy and in firm disagreement,” he said Friday. “When they say it (the product’s claim) is baseless, they are entirely wrong.”
The company sold the product online in a 60-pill bottle for $29.95, according to court documents. The dose was two pills a day.
It contains the enzyme catalase, which the company says attacks hydrogen peroxide, the chemical that causes hair to turn gray. “GetAwayGrey doesn’t cover grey hair; it’s actually a cure for grey hair,” the company said on its website, according to court records. “Now, grey hair can be stopped and reversed.”
The company reportedly based its product on research conducted by the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom. Duner-Fenter said Friday the college’s research involved animals, not humans.
As part of the agreement with the FTC, if Duner-Fenter intends to restart the company, he must perform human clinical trials, document the results and supply the information to the FTC.
“We are confident if we do human trials, it will prove it will reverse gray hair,” Duner-Fenter said.
Duner-Fenter, 52, said he used the product every day for four years. “It works,” he said.
The clinical trials could take place over the next couple of years, he said. “It is a fairly extensive process,” he said. “We would look at doing the clinical tests and work in cooperation with other companies to finance them.”
He said he is embarrassed for himself and his family by the matter and would fight it if he had the financial resources.
“If I had the funding available, I would fight this case because adults can make informed consumer decisions whether to buy the product or not, but I realize we are not going to win against the U.S. government,” he said. “The government is overreaching into personal liberties of entrepreneurs such as ourselves.”
He also said, “We have never guaranteed that the product works for all customers. We have always run a very honest business with integrity.”
Duner-Fenter, an entertainment and media marketing executive, said he will turn his attention to developing a digital service for other companies now that GetAwayGrey is off the shelf for now.
The FTC also reached a similar agreement with New Jersey-based Rise-N-Shine LLC, makers of Go Away Gray. It, too, must stop making gray hair-elimination claims unless it has reliable scientific evidence to support them, the FTC said. Rise-N-Shine faces a $2 million suspended fine.
A third company, COORGA Nutraceuticals Corp. of Wyoming, is facing separate FTC legal action over its Grey Defence product.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.