FTC Order Bans Canada-based “Freedom Center Against Obesity” from Marketing Weight-Loss Products
The Quebec-based marketers of a supposed weight-loss treatment have agreed to pay $500,000 to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they deceived consumers with bogus claims that their Double Shot pills would cause rapid, substantial, and permanent weight loss, without diet or exercise.
According to the FTC’s complaint, Manon Fernet and the company she controls, which did business as the “Freedom Center Against Obesity,” marketed Double Shot to U.S. consumers from 2012 through October 2013, using direct mail advertising. The company claimed that users could eat as much of any food as they wanted, and lose 15 to 20 pounds a week, without exercising and the weight loss would be permanent.
“These defendants made outrageous claims about their supposed weight-loss treatment, and encouraged overweight consumers to forgo diet and exercise,” said Jessica Rich, the Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This order should send a strong message that the Commission does not tolerate such fraudulent advertising.”
The company’s advertising claimed to be from a Dr. Joseph Breechman, who was identified as the Director of Weight Loss Research for the purported Freedom Center Against Obesity, which was supposedly in California. The address for the Freedom Center Against Obesity that appeared in Double Shot ads and on the product label was in fact just the address of the defendants’ fulfillment house.
In the mailer, “Dr. Joseph Breechman” was quoted as saying, “This plate of spaghetti has 720 calories! But when you take DOUBLE SHOT you will only absorb… 72 calories!”A supply of pills “to lose up to 30 lbs” cost $79. The bottles contained blue capsules that supposedly burned fat, and red ones that supposedly blocked calories. In addition, the defendants allegedly claimed that the effectiveness of Double Shot as a weight-loss treatment had been proven by clinical studies.
The FTC charged that the defendants’ claims were false or unsupported, and violated Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act.
Under the agreed-upon settlement, which is part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts to stop over-hyped health claims, the defendants are banned from manufacturing or marketing weight loss products or assisting others in doing so.
The settlement also prohibits the defendants from making any claims about the health benefits or effectiveness of any dietary supplement, food, drug, or device unless the claims are true and the defendants have competent and reliable scientific evidence to back them up. The evidence must consist of studies that are generally accepted in the profession to have been conducted and evaluated objectively by qualified people.
They also are prohibited from misrepresenting the results of any study when marketing a dietary supplement, food, drug, or device, and from saying the benefits of such a product are scientifically proven when they are not.
Consumers should carefully evaluate advertising for weight loss products and for products that claim to cure diseases. For more information, see: Weight Loss & Fitness and Miracle Health Claims. Publishers and broadcasters should consult Gut Check: A Reference Guide for Media on Spotting False Weight-Loss Claims.
According to the complaint, the company is incorporated as 7734956 CANADA INC, and also did business as Meilleures Sélections Du Globe.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and approving the proposed settlement order was 5-0. The FTC filed the complaint and proposed stipulated final order in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, on July 16, 2014. The judge signed and entered the order on July 21, 2014.
The FTC is a member of the National Prevention Council, which provides coordination and leadership at the federal level regarding prevention, wellness, and health promotion practices. This case advances the National Prevention Strategy’s goal of increasing the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life.
NOTE: The Commission files 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. Settlement orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
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.
Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection