The Federal Trade Commission recently announced an initiative to stop national marketers from making deceptive claims for fad weight loss products. The FTC obtained a total of $34 million worth of penalties against four companies that marketed products ranging from food additives and skin creams to dietary supplements.
One company claimed a consumer could use its product to “sprinkle, eat, and lose weight.” Another company involved a marketer of human growth hormone hCG, claiming liquid hCG drops “cause consumers to rapidly lose substantial weight.”
“Operation Failed Resolution” is part of the FTC’s ongoing effort to stop misleading claims for products promoting easy weight loss. Marketers of Sensa, the company that told customers to “sprinkle, eat, and lose weight”, will pay a $26.5 million settlement to the FTC, which will make the funds available for refunds to consumers.
The FTC also charged marketers of two other products that couldn’t back up their promises: L’Occitane, which claimed (without any science to support its claim) that its skin cream would slim users’ bodies and HCG Diet Direct, which marketed an unproven human hormone.
The FTC also announced a partial settlement against LeanSpa, LLC, an operation that allegedly deceptively promoted acai berry and “colon cleanse” supplements through fake news websites.
Your BBB has challenged several hCG-related ad claims. One company advertised that most of their patients could lose 15 to 40 pounds per month with their hCG treatment. Another company claimed the hCG diet is “proven successful.” BBB asked the companies to back up their claims. Just one company responded, saying it disagreed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA)’s findings.
BBB received more than 4,600 complaints nationwide last year about weight control services and diet products. Common complaints included advertising issues related to the results claimed by the product marketer or service, along with complaints about products causing an adverse reaction, products never delivered as promised and refund and exchange issues.
Before you invest in diet plans or products, BBB advises you to do the following:
- Consult your doctor or healthcare provider. Certain supplements and ingredients can be potentially dangerous when mixed with medications or if someone is pregnant, nursing or has a pre-existing health condition. Always consult with your doctor first.
- Research the supplement. The Food and Drug Administration is a great resource for researching supplements and their ingredients. You can also go to bbb.org to check out the BBB Business Review of any retailer or manufacturer that makes the supplement you’re interested in purchasing. Additional information on product claims, the safety and effectives of the product, as well as any reports of adverse effects can be acquired directly from the product manufacturer or distributor.
- Be cautious of too-good-to-be-true claims. If a product is touting exaggerated claims or instant fixes, this is a red flag.
- Be extra diligent when searching products on the Web. When searching for information about supplements online, use respected websites such as those run by the government, university research or reputable medical databases rather than just doing a quick search through a search engine.
For more information, visit the FTC’s website at www.ftc.gov .