(UPDATED) Lifestyle Lift must follow Federal Trade Commission guidelines on testimonials, stop calling its facelift “revolutionary,” and refund some customers’ money, according to a just-inked agreement with the Florida attorney general. This new deal comes 4 years after the company settled a similar suit in New York.
Plastic Surgery Practice magazine has been following Lifestyle Lift for the past year. Many facial plastic surgeons and plastic surgeons have taken issue with the veracity of the company’s advertising and its litigious response to criticism. Much of this controversy has been played out on the pages of PSP.
“Lifestyle Lift has agreed to change its marketing materials and practices to eliminate any possible consumer confusion about its services,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, in a press release.
As part of the agreement, Lifestyle Lift (LSL) must disclose any compensation made to the models used in its advertisements and its materials, disclose what facial rejuvenation services were performed on models in the company’s marketing materials, and comply with Federal Trade Commission guidelines concerning the use of before-and-after photographs of models in endorsements and testimonials in marketing materials. The company has also agreed not to use the term “revolutionary procedure” to describe the basic Lifestyle Lift.
What’s more, Florida consumers who purchased services between June 1, 2009, and June 10, 2013, may be entitled to a refund. ?The company must also pay Florida’s legal fees and contribute $25,000 to a fund called Seniors v. crime.
In a press release, the LSL corporation points out that the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance agreement finds no violation of any state or federal law and is the final resolution of the matter.
Stephen Prendiville, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in Fort Myers, Florida, has been vocal in his criticism of Lifestyle Lift’s marketing efforts and other practices. He had hoped that the sanctions would be more severe. “This outcome was really no surprise to those that have followed LSL over the last few years,” he says. “We all know LSL was never revolutionary, that the marketing was overblown, and that it set a poor example in the cosmetic surgery industry. However, the penalty was fairly light, and I also feel that it took a great deal of time for this action to be taken.”
PSP legal analyst Michael J. Sacopulos, JD, reviewed the agreement. “Some may view the Lifestyle Lift settlement with the State of Florida as merely a slap on the wrist,” he says. “While it is true no significant financial penalty to the State of Florida was issued, all is not happy for Lifestyle Lift. The settlement with the Attorney General’s Office may open a line of private claims by former Lifestyle Lift patients.”
Further, he says, “it also serves as a guide post to other states that may wish to look into Lifestyle Lift’s marketing practices. The organization claims on its website they have 77 offices across the United States. That places them under the potential scrutiny of many Attorney General offices.”
Finally, the settlement language with the Florida Attorney General may provide a basis for actions via professional boards of medicine. “Some of the allegations that formed the basis of the settlement seemed to run directly contrary to guidelines issued late last year by the Federation of State Medical Boards,” he says. “While the immediate impact to Lifestyle Lift from the Florida settlement may be minor, it remains unclear how this will impact the organization in the months and years to come.”
Malcolm D. Paul, M.D., a consultant and operating surgeon for the Lifestyle Lift responds:
“The Florida Attorney General’s office recently ended its review of Lifestyle Lift’s® marketing practices. Unfortunately, some news coverage has been misleading and I’d like to clarify the results. In the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, Attorney General Bondi said that Lifestyle Lift® acted in good faith and found that there was no violation of any state or federal law. That’s why there was no penalty or fine. The Attorney General also acknowledged that Lifestyle Lift® has an established process for handling customer satisfaction issues and inquiries.
In 2004, Lifestyle Lift voluntarily submitted its marketing materials to the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau and adopted their recommendations. Therefore, the Attorney General’s recommendations were minor enhancements to those marketing standards such as using a larger font size in print disclaimers and identifying the specific procedure for each patient model. We adopted all of those changes more than two years ago, and the AVC will have no impact on our national advertising. All Lifestyle Lift advertisements are reviewed and approved by outside counsel. Lifestyle Lift reimbursed the Attorney General for the cost of the review and the matter is now closed. “