A Washington state judge has ordered the makers of 5 Hour Energy to pay nearly $4.3 million as part of a lawsuit over false and deceptive advertising for the popular energy shots.
On February 7, Judge Beth Andrus of King County ordered Living Essentials LLC and Innovation Ventures LLC, the makers and distributors of 5-Hour Energy drinks, to pay about $2.2 million in penalties for violating Washington’s Consumer Protection Act, and an additional $2.1 million to the office of state Attorney General Bob Ferguson for legal costs and fees.
The judgment (PDF) came as the result of a 5 Hour Energy lawsuit filed by Ferguson in 2014, which alleged that the shots were deceptively advertised, with claims that it was recommended by doctors and caused “no sugar crash,” as well as suggesting that the product was suitable for teenagers.
The judge in the case chastised the company for apparently conducting little to no actual science on their products before they were threatened with legal action.
“Defendants spent more time trying to justify the science behind their ads after-the-fact than they did before marketing the products in Washington. The Court was struck by the fact that Defendants presented no testimony from a single scientist actually involved in developing the contents of this product,” the judge said in her ruling. “There was scant evidence as to what science anyone at Living Essentials had ever seen or relied on before it began to sell this product.”
The initial trial was held for three weeks in September, ending in a decision against the companies in early October. The February 7 ruling was the court’s order on civil penalties, restitution, injunctive relief and fees resulting from that ruling.
5-Hour Energy is a popular energy drink distributed by Innovation Ventures, LLC, which does business as Living Essentials. The product is categorized as a dietary supplement, meaning that the manufacturer has been able to avoid FDA regulation and sell the product without disclosing details on what is contained in the energy drink shot.
Marketing statements made by the manufacturer typically indicate that 5 Hour Energy provides “hours of energy now – no crash later,” suggesting that users will not experience the sudden drop in energy that is typically associated with other high-caffeine energy drink products. According to National Advertising Division (NAD), part of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, there is data that disproves the claim.
The energy drink industry has come under increased scrutiny over the past several years, as concerns mount about the potential health risks associated with energy drink products and various marketing claims that encourage young users to consume large quantities of the highly caffeinated beverages.
According to information released by the FDA, there have been at least 13 deaths linked to 5 Hour Energy Shots.