Sept. 1, 2008 -- If you have ever purchased the product "Airborne," you could have money coming.
Airborne has settled a class action lawsuit and government charges brought by the Federal Trade Commission. Both accused the company of deceptive marketing.
Airborne built its business with ads that described it as a "miracle cold buster" that was "created by a school teacher."
But the FTC says there is no credible proof that the effervescent tables can prevent or cure the common cold and has barred the company from making such claims in the future.
Airborne agreed to pay $30 million to reimburse consumers. Customers who bought Airborne Effervescent Health Formula, Airborne On-the-Go, Airborne Power Pixies, Airborne Nighttime, Airborne Jr., Airborne Gummis, and Airborne Seasonal Relief between May 1, 2001 and Nov. 29, 2007 are eligible.
If you have your receipts, you can get your money back for all the Airborne you've ever purchased. Without receipts, you can still get a refund for up to six items, a total of $63.
"We want to get the word out to everyone who qualifies for these refunds," said Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. The deadline to apply is Sept. 15.
ABC News Investigation
ABC News' "Good Morning America" was the first to question Airborne's dramatic claims. The company said it had commissioned a "double-blind, placebo-controlled study" of Airborne's effectiveness.
But when we tracked down the company that conducted the study, it turned out to be two guys in Key West, Fla., who started up a company just to do the Airborne study. One of the men claimed to have a degree from Indiana University, but the school told us he never graduated.
An early press release boasted Airborne would "get rid of most colds in 1 hour."
We asked Airborne CEO Elise Donohue about that and other claims in a 2006 interview and she said, "I would never sit here and tell you that Airborne is a cure for the common cold."
In more recent advertisements and packaging, the company has switched to much blander language.
Victoria Knight-McDowell, the schoolteacher who developed Airborne, used to be featured on the box saying, "I developed Airborne because I was sick of getting sick." Later packaging shows her with the quote, "I developed Airborne to support my immune system."
The government does not require manufacturers of herbal products to prove their products work as long as they don't make specific claims about them.
Airborne denies wrongdoing and said it settled the FTC charges and the class action lawsuit to avoid the continued expense and distraction.
"It's important to note that this is a settlement over older advertising and labeling," said CEO Elise Donahue, "and has nothing to do with public safety."
Airborne continues to be the number one herbal remedy in the cough and cold aisle. In fact, consumers spend $300 million a year on Airborne products.
For more details on how to apply for the settlement, visit: www.airbornehealthsettlement.com.