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Federal Trade Commissionís (FTC) Recent Lawsuit Against zMax

The performance benefits of aftermarket additives are mostly unsubstantiated.

This article appeared in AMSOIL DirectLine, December 1, 2001

AMSOIL has long discouraged motorists from using any kind of aftermarket lubricant additive. After all, AMSOIL synthetic lubricants use the finest quality synthetic basestocks and additive systems. In the “Questions and Answers About AMSOIL Synthetic Motor Oils” brochure (G-359), in response to the question “Should oil additives or aftermarket products be added to AMSOIL motor oils?” it states, “No, you don’t need them. AMSOIL motor oils are formulated under the strictest quality control standards to provide superior lubrication performance. Additives cost money and only detract from the quality of AMSOIL motor oils.”

A perfect example of why AMSOIL discourages use of aftermarket additives is the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) recent lawsuit against zMax auto additives, seeking to halt false and misleading advertising and gain refunds for consumers who purchased the products. According to the FTC, the enhanced performance benefits zMax claims its products provide are totally unsubstantiated, and in the same tests cited to support performance claims, motor oil treated with zMax actually produced more than twice as much bearing corrosion than motor oil by itself. They further allege that the three different zMax products - an engine additive, a fuel line additive and a transmission additive - are nothing more than tinted mineral oil.

The complaint states that since at least May of 1999, zMax has aired infomercials promoting its “Power System,” a $39 package of three additives to be used in the engine, fuel line and transmission of automobiles. The infomercials are quite convincing, even going as far as featuring testimonials from various consumers and race car drivers making such claims as, “I was averaging about 22 miles to the gallon on the highway. I installed the zMax and so I jumped right up to about 28 miles per gallon” and “zMax guarantees a minimum of 10 percent gas mileage increase.” Other advertising claims “zMax with LinKite has the scientific, CRC L38 proof it takes your car to the Max!” and “Why zMax Works - Cuts carbon build-up on valve stems 66%; Lowers wear on valve stems 66%; Lowers wear on piston skirts 60%; Reduces blow-by leakage 17.7%; Increases combustion efficiency 9.20%; Lowers fuel consumption 8.5% - Results of an independent CRC L38 test.”

The CRC L38 test is a standard auto industry test which measures the bearing corrosion protection properties of motor oils. According to the complaint, in early 1997 an independent testing facility performed two CRC L38 tests of the zMax products. The results showed motor oil treated with the zMax additives produced more than double the bearing corrosion as motor oil alone. According to the FTC, the defendants eliminated the bearing corrosion results, as well as all other negative results, to produce one “report” from the two sets of tests, using this “report” in its infomercials and on its website.

The FTC charge alleges that zMax did not possess and rely on reasonable substantiation for the following product claims:

• increases gas mileage by a minimum of 10%
• reduces engine wear
• reduces or eliminates engine wear at startup
• reduces engine corrosion
• extends engine life
• reduces emissions

They also allege that the defendants falsely represent that the results of the CRC L38 test prove that zMax:

• increases gas mileage
• reduces engine wear
• extends engine life
• lowers fuel consumption by 8.5%
• lowers wear on valve stems by 66%
• lowers wear on piston skirts by 60%
• cuts carbon build-up on valve stems by 66%

Finally, the FTC charges that zMax does not have substantiation for the representation that the testimonials and endorsements shown in zMax advertising are “the actual and current opinions, findings, beliefs, and/or experiences of those consumers; and the typical or ordinary experience of members of the public who use the product.”

The lawsuit against zMax is the latest in a long line of FTC charges against auto additive manufacturers. The FTC has previously halted allegedly deceptive advertising by the marketers of Dura Lube, Motor Up, Prolong, Valvoline, Slick 50, STP and other major brands of engine treatment systems.

 
 
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