Informercials Ran Nationally
The Federal Trade Commission today charged Slim Down Solution, LLC, Maderia Management, Inc., and several related companies and individuals with using false and unsubstantiated claims in the marketing and advertising of "Slim Down Solution" - a purported weight-loss product. The advertising claimed that the product's key ingredient, D-glucosamine, absorbs up to 20 grams of dietary fat and causes significant weight loss without diet or exercise. According to the FTC complaint, these claims are false.
The FTC's complaint names Slim Down Solution, LLC, Slim Down Solution, Inc., S.S.T. Management, Inc., The KARA Group, LLC, and their principals, Ronald Alarcon and Kathleen Alarcon (collectively, SDS defendants); and Maderia Management, Inc., Polyglucosamine, Ltd., and their principal, Steven Pierce (collectively, Maderia defendants). The SDS defendants, based in West Palm Beach, Florida, have advertised and sold Slim Down Solution through nationally-disseminated infomercials that aired on cable television channels such as Bravo, Comedy Central, and PAX Cable, and on the Internet at www.slimdownsolution.com. In addition, the SDS defendants sell their product through a continuity program, automatically shipping consumers Slim Down Solution and charging consumers' credit cards or debiting their bank accounts monthly. The Maderia defendants, based in Conroe, Texas, have manufactured and sold D-glucosamine products directly to consumers and other resellers through their Internet sites, including www.polyglucosamine.com. Resellers, in turn, promoted the products to consumers under private labels such as "Fight the Fat," "Everslim," "Mini Max," and "Slim Down Solution."
The FTC is seeking permanent injunctive relief and consumer redress against all of the defendants. Concurrently with the filing of its complaint in this matter, the FTC filed a stipulated preliminary injunction against the SDS defendants that, when signed by the judge, will preliminarily enjoin use of the challenged claims in advertising.
"It's no secret that claims promoting significant weight loss without diet or exercise are false," said Howard Beales, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The scientific community knows it, the law enforcement community knows it, and the media know it. Law enforcement has been significant and aggressive on the issue. But it's clear we need the media's help to keep these bogus claims from reaching consumers. Although hope for quick and easy weight loss springs eternal, the only real solutions require eating less and exercising more."
In November 2002, the Commission conducted a workshop on weight-loss advertising that focused on identifying false weight-loss claims and exploring what the media could and should do to stop weight-loss fraud. "The workshop was successful," said Beales. "We intend to follow up with additional media guidance. Protecting the public from fraudulent weight-loss advertising will require the cooperation of the media that run these ads. When it comes to false weight-loss product claims, we are asking the media to work with us to protect their viewers from this kind of fraud."
The SDS Defendants
In their advertisements, the SDS defendants used such statements as:
- "The Slim Down Solution is an incredible tiny tablet that contains D-Glucosamine, a powerful, all-natural, fat magnet and trapper . . . . One tablet can help eliminate as much as 20 grams of Fat!"
- "Lose 10 Pounds And 2 Inches In 30 Days Or Your Money Back!"
- "[T]here are many diet programs and systems out there. . . . But the one thing they all have in common is that you have to change your lifestyle and your eating habits for them to be successful. . . . The Slim Down Solution doesn't require you to change anything. That's the beauty of it. It's effortless."
The complaint alleges that the SDS defendants violated the FTC Act by falsely representing that Slim Down Solution:
- causes substantial weight loss without calorie reduction or exercise, enabling consumers to lose at least 10 pounds and two inches in 30 days;
- causes weight loss even if consumers eat substantial amounts of food high in fat, including hamburgers, chocolate, cheesecake, chicken nuggets, and french fries; and isolates up to 20 grams of dietary fat per dose, then binds it to be carried out of the body as waste.
The FTC further alleges that the SDS defendants did not possess a reasonable basis to substantiate these claims, or the claim that Slim Down Solution causes weight loss, at the time the claims were made. The FTC further alleges that the defendants falsely stated that independent laboratory testing using U.S. government standards proves that Slim Down Solution binds dietary fat in the human digestive system, when such was not the case. In addition, the complaint alleges that the SDS defendants improperly charged consumers' credit cards or debited their bank accounts through the continuity program.
The Maderia Defendants
The complaint alleges that the Maderia defendants provided the means and instrumentalities for the SDS defendants to make their deceptive claims. It also alleges that the Maderia defendants falsely represented that their D-glucosamine products isolate up to 16-20 grams of dietary fat per dose, then bind it to be carried out of the body as waste; falsely represented that independent studies prove that its D-glucosamine products absorb dietary fat, thereby causing weight loss in humans; and represented without adequate substantiation that their D-glucosamine products cause weight loss.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The complaint and stipulated preliminary injunction were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, West Palm Beach Division, on January 22, 2003.
The FTC has the following tips for consumers who are interested in weight-loss products or programs:
- Products and programs that promise quick and easy weight loss are bogus. To lose weight, you have to lower your intake of calories and increase your physical activity.
- The faster you lose weight, the more likely you are to gain it back. Experts recommend a goal of about a pound a week.
- There are no miracle weight-loss products. Be skeptical of products and programs that claim they can keep weight off permanently. Be skeptical about exaggerated claims.
For more information on weight loss and diets, visit the FTC's Web site at: www.ftc.gov/dietfit.
NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant actually has violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Heather Hippsley or Janet Evans
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3285 or 202-326-2125
(FTC File No. 022 3163)
(Civil Action No. 03-80051-CIV-PAINE (S.D. Fla.)
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