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FTC & State of California Files Charges Against CRI Genetics For False Representations To Consumers

Updated: Dec 3, 2023


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the state of California have obtained an order against a DNA testing company. The company has been accused of making numerous false statements to consumers in order to persuade them to purchase ancestry reports. In order to resolve the charges brought against them by the agencies, CRI Genetics has agreed to cease any deceptive behavior, pay a civil penalty, and provide consumers with the ability to delete their biometric information.




CRI Genetics, LLC (CRI), a company based in California, has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $700,000 and will be prohibited from engaging in various deceptive practices as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and the California Attorney General. The settlement comes after the agencies filed a joint complaint in federal district, alleging that CRI misled users regarding the accuracy of its DNA reports.


According to the complaint, CRI marketed its DNA-based ancestry and information reports by falsely representing the accuracy of its test reports in comparison to those of other DNA testing companies. Additionally, the company made false claims about having patented an algorithm for its genetic matching process and utilized fabricated reviews and testimonials on its websites. The complaint further states that CRI employed "dark patterns" in its online billing process, deceiving consumers into purchasing products they neither desired nor agreed to buy.


“Today’s action continues the FTC’s crackdown on deceptive reviews, dark patterns, and baseless claims around algorithmic solutions,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We are proud to partner with California on this important matter and will continue to carefully scrutinize claims around biometric information technologies.”


“CRI Genetics could have found legitimate ways to market its services. Unfortunately, in its pursuit of growth and profits, the company repeatedly misled consumers. The FTC and my office took notice, we investigated, and we are delivering results today,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Our settlement not only holds CRI Genetics accountable for its past misconduct — it also aims to ensure that CRI Genetics doesn’t engage in similar misconduct going forward. I want to thank our federal counterparts at the FTC for their continued partnership and commitment to ensuring that all businesses play by the same rules.”


This course of action is in accordance with the Commission’s Biometric Policy Statement, which explicitly states that making unsubstantiated marketing claims regarding the validity, reliability, accuracy, performance, fairness, or efficacy of biometric technology violates the FTC Act.


CRI, also known as OmniPGX, engages in the advertising, marketing, distribution, and sale of DNA test kits, as well as ancestry and health and wellness reports, to consumers across the country. Since at least 2017, CRI has promoted and sold DNA saliva swab test kits on its website, along with reports generated by a third-party laboratory. These reports provide consumers with information about their genetic ancestry, potential health and wellness traits and conditions, and paternity.


The complaint alleges that CRI violated the FTC Act, California's Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code, and the state's False Advertising Law, Business and Professions code in multiple ways. Firstly, CRI purportedly made false claims on its websites and social media platforms, asserting that its ancestry reports were more accurate and comprehensive compared to other prominent DNA testing companies like Ancestry DNA and 23andMe.


According to the agencies involved, CRI also misrepresented that its ancestry testing reports would precisely indicate the geographical origins of consumers' relatives and their presence dating back 50 plus generations, with an accuracy rate exceeding 90 percent. The company featured advertisements with a renowned genetic scientist who allegedly developed CRI's DNA matching algorithm, falsely claiming that it was patented.



Furthermore, CRI posted fabricated reviews from purportedly "satisfied customers" on its websites and falsely asserted that the test kits had limited availability to create a sense of urgency among consumers. The company also published star rating reviews that compared CRI's reports to those of other companies in the market on seemingly independent and unbiased websites, without disclosing its ownership of these websites, which also provided links for purchasing the company's products.


CRI has been accused of engaging in deceptive practices by forcing consumers to navigate through a series of pop-up pages on its websites, luring them with false promises of "special rewards" and then trapping them by claiming their order was incomplete. Furthermore, CRI misled consumers by assuring them that they would have the opportunity to review their orders before being charged, only to immediately charge them and compel them to return unwanted products.


To address these allegations, CRI has agreed to pay a $700,000 civil penalty to the state of California. Additionally, the company will be prohibited from making any false representations as alleged by the regulatory agencies. It will also be barred from making misrepresentations in connection with the advertising, sale, or offering for sale of any DNA information testing product or service. CRI will be required to refrain from misrepresenting endorsements, reviews, and ratings, and will need to disclose any material connections it has with social media or other endorsers.


Furthermore, CRI will be prohibited from misrepresenting the finality or completeness of product orders, the timing of charges, and the ability of consumers to modify their chosen services before being charged. The company will also be obligated to disclose the total cost of all products or services, the timing of charges, and whether consumers can confirm, edit, or delete products prior to being charged.


Additionally, CRI will be required to obtain consumers' consent and provide a clear description of how their DNA information may be shared. The company will also have to delete the genetic and other information of consumers who have previously received refunds and requested the deletion of their data and personal information.


The complaint and proposed final order were filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The Commission's vote to authorize the filing of the complaint and stipulated final order was unanimous, with a vote of 3-0. Nadine Samter, an attorney from the FTC's Northwest Region, served as the lead staff attorney on this case.



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