FTC Has Updated Guidance for Media Outlets on Spotting False Weight-Loss Claims in Advertising

Business Guidance Names 7 ‘Gut Check’ Claims that Should Spark Skepticism

For Your Information

The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, has updated guidance for publishers and broadcasters on how to spot phony weight-loss claims when screening ads for publication.

“Gut Check: A Reference Guide for Media on Spotting False Weight-Loss Claims” describes seven weight loss claims that can’t be true and should prompt a “gut check” – a second look to make sure publishers are not running advertisements with claims known to be false.  The guide also contains advice on dealing with problematic areas like consumer testimonials and fine print disclosures.  The Gut Check guidance updates the Red Flag Bogus Weight-Loss Claims reference guide for media that the FTC first published in 2003.

In a letter that is being sent to publishers and broadcasters, the FTC asks them to share the revised guidance with their sales staffs and screen out diet ads that make “gut check” claims.

Together with the release of the updated Gut Check guidance, the FTC announced settlements in four weight-loss cases:  Sensa Products, LLC; L’Occitane, Inc.; HCG Diet Direct; and LeanSpa, LLC.

The FTC also has information for consumers about weight loss, including a teaser website designed to reach people who are surfing online for weight-loss products.  At first glance, the website appears to advertise a new product, “FatFoe,” that guarantees fast, easy weight loss for all users, with no diet or exercise necessary to lose up to 10 pounds per week permanently.  In reality, the claims made for “FatFoe” are almost always false or misleading.  When consumers try to order FatFoe, they learn the ad is a warning from the FTC about diet rip-offs.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.  To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).  The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.  The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.  Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Betsy Lordan
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-3707

STAFF CONTACT:
Richard Cleland
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3088