FTC Settlement Requires $2.6 Million Consumer Refund Program
Marketers of the BodyFlex+ System (BodyFlex) have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that they deceptively advertised that BodyFlex causes users to lose from four to 14 inches in the first seven days. The proposed settlement, which requires court approval, establishes a $2.6 million consumer refund program, and requires the defendants to stop making the false claims about BodyFlex challenged in the FTC’s complaint.
BodyFlex is an 18-minute routine involving stretching, deep breathing, and exercises with the BodyFlex Gym Bar – a plastic exercise bar with a resistance band. In 2003, the defendants promoted BodyFlex in a heavily-aired national infomercial and on the Internet at www.bodyflex.com. The ads claimed, “in just seven days you can lose from four to 14 inches guaranteed with BodyFlex Plus.”
The FTC’s complaint, filed in federal district court in November 2003, and amended in January 2004, charges that the defendants made false and unsubstantiated claims that: 1) BodyFlex causes users to lose from four to 14 inches across six body areas in the first seven days without reducing calories; 2) BodyFlex causes users to burn enough body fat to achieve the claimed inch loss in the first seven days; and 3) a clinical study proves that BodyFlex causes significant fat loss and inch loss in the first seven days.
The FTC’s amended complaint names Savvier, Inc. and Savvier, LP, California companies; their principals, Jeffrey Tuller and Jack Ching Chung Chang; BodyFlex, Inc., a Nevada corporation; and its principal and BodyFlex spokesperson Greer Childers. In a stipulated motion filed on August 31, 2004, the FTC asked the court to dismiss charges against defendant Jack Ching Chung Chang.
The proposed stipulated final judgment and order bans the remaining settling defendants from making the false claims challenged in the complaint. It also prohibits the defendants from making claims, for any product, service, or program that purports to provide weight-loss, inch- loss, fat-loss, exercise or fitness benefits, and for any dietary supplement, food or drug, without scientific substantiation. The order further prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting test or research results for any of these covered products, services, or programs.
The order requires Savvier LP to establish and administer a $2.6 million consumer refund program. Savvier LP also will pay the administrative costs of the refund program. Under the program, dissatisfied consumers will have an opportunity to receive either a full refund or a pro rata share, depending on the consumer response to the refund offer. Savvier LP will send notices to BodyFlex purchasers describing how they can receive a refund. After the refund program is completed, any unused funds will be disgorged to the U.S. Treasury. The FTC has established a consumer hotline number for BodyFlex: 202-326-2935.
The order also contains a $36 million “avalanche clause,” which would make this entire amount immediately due if the court finds that the defendants misrepresented their financial condition.
Finally, the order contains various recordkeeping and reporting requirements to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants’ compliance.
The Commission vote authorizing staff to file the proposed Stipulated Final Judgment and Order was 5-0. The Order was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, on August 31, 2004, and is subject to court approval.
The FTC has two consumer publications about exercise equipment, “Avoiding the Muscle Hustle” and “Pump Fiction: When Marketers Overextend Their Fitness Claims.” These publications, found at www.ftc.gov/dietfit, offer tips to consider and questions to ask before buying exercise equipment.
To lose weight and get in shape:
- Commit to sensible eating and moderate exercise.
- Remember: the benefits of exercise require exercise – not gizmos or gimmicks.
- Be patient. Losing weight and inches takes time.
The FTC consumer hotline number for BodyFlex is 202-326-2935.
NOTE: This Stipulated Final Judgment and Order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated Final Judgments and Orders have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the Stipulated Final Judgment and Order 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 in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), 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.
(FTC Matter No. X040018)
(Civil Action No. CV-03-8159)
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3743 or 202-326-2981 or 202-326-3740