Posted January 9, 2014

Four Companies Settle FTC Charges of Deceptive Weight Loss Claims

On January 7, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that marketers for four weight loss products have agreed to settlements over charges of deceptive weight loss claims.

Sensa was advertised as a product could be sprinkled on food to enhance smell and taste, making users feel fuller faster, and resulting in weight loss from eating less, without changes in diet or exercise. The marketers of Sensa will pay $26.5 million to the FTC so that the money can be distributed as refunds to people who have purchased the product. (The makers of Sensa have settled two other lawsuits over deceptive advertising in the past.)

A second company, HCG Diet Direct, promoted liquid homeopathic hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) drops as causing rapid and substantial weight loss in videos posted on YouTube, on product packaging, and on the company's website. Marketing materials also advocated users adhere to a very low calorie diet, which can be dangerous to do without physician supervision. (The FDA warned consumers about weight loss products containing hCG in 2011, and issued a warning letter to HCG Diet Direct the same year for making drug claims.) In addition, HCG Diet Direct falsely claimed that the product was FDA approved.

The proposed settlement with HCG Diet Direct includes a $3.2 million judgment (which has been suspended based on the company's inability to pay) and prohibits any other claims that are not based on adequate scientific evidence.

The principal of LeanSpa, LLC, a third company charged by the FTC, will surrender $7 million in cash, real estate and personal property to settle charges that the company used fake news websites promoting acai berry and "colon cleanse" weight loss products.

(See ConsumerLab.com's Review of Acai Berry Supplements and Beverages for more information about this ingredient and tests of related products.)

Marketers for L'Occitane, Inc., a company promoting "body-slimming" skin creams, were also charged for unsupported claims. The company will pay $450,000 for consumer redress as part of their agreement with the FTC.

The settlements are part of the FTC's "Operation Failed Resolution," a law enforcement initiative to stop misleading claims for products promoting easy weight loss.

The commission also recently issued new guidelines for media outlets, to help identify false advertising claims before they are published or broadcast, and created a website for a fake weight loss product designed to highlight the common red flags for diet "rip-offs."

(See ConsumerLab.com's Review of Weight Loss Supplements for more information about weight loss ingredients and tests of other weight loss products.)

See Related Warnings:

Marketers of "Genetically Customized" Supplements Settle FTC Charges of Deceptive Health Claims

Sensa Settles Second False Advertising Lawsuit

Seller of "HCG Drops" for Weight Loss Warned by FDA and FTC of Violations

HCG Diet Products Don't Work and Are Illegal Says FDA

FTC Targets Fake News Sites Making Deceptive Acai Claims

FTC Stops Operator of Fake News Sites Offering Acai and Colon Cleanse Products

FTC Stops Operator of Fake News Sites Offering Acai and Colon Cleanse Products

To read the FTC's press release, use the link below.