Thursday

23rd Jan 2020

Record fine for Hungarian vitamin producer

A vitamin manufacturer reported by Hungarian media to have close ties with the Scientology movement has been punished by the Hungarian competition authority with a fine of €368,500.

The record penalty - unique in its kind - has to be paid by a company owned by Gabor Lenkei for misleading consumers. Mr Lenkei's firm, Free Choice, had used stories of "satisfied consumers" and "miracles" in its marketing drive: some blind "patients" got back their eyesight, people suffering from diabetes stopped taking insulin, headaches disappeared, women managed to become pregnant and all "thanks to" the vitamins. Mr Lenkei's self-published books made similar claims.

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  • The company used free speech laws to make sensational claims (Photo: Flickr)

Consumers saying what they experienced enjoy the right of free expression. Mr Lenkei, who describes himself as a researcher (who tried to cure HIV by giving magnetised distilled water to patients), has also suggested that his vitamins are an alternative to multinational drug companies which are only after big profits.

Free Choice had net income of €10 million in 2007 and €6 million in 2008, running 19 franchise shops and a home delivery website.

The Hungarian authorities attacked the firm on the basis that food supplement makers cannot promise to cure medical conditions if they have not undergone the drug authorisation process. The competition authority said Free Choice's marketing could mislead people into stopping prescribed medication to rely on the vitamins instead.

Hungarian health authorities had earlier ruled that 22 out of the 39 vitamin pills sold by the company contained excessive doses of B6 and B12 vitamins.

Hungarian media reports say that Mr Lenkei is one of the biggest financial supporters of the Hungarian chapter of the Scientology movement, which itself uses vitamins during its "purification processes."

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