The Federal Trade Commission has obtained a settlement agreement from Jenny Craig, Inc. to resolve deceptive advertising charges in connection with the diet program's claims about weight loss, weight loss maintenance, price and safety, as well as its use of consumer testimonials and endorsements. Among other things, the settlement would set the level of substantiation Jenny Craig and its subsidiary, Jenny Craig International, Inc., must have before making any claims about the success of customers in achieving or maintaining weight loss, and require that consumer experience testimonials either reflect the general results of Jenny Craig customers or be qualified by disclosures that reveal the generally expected results or make clear that the results portrayed are not typical.
Jenny Craig and Jenny Craig International (collectively below, Jenny Craig) share offices in Del Mar, California. This settlement would resolve litigation that began in September 1993, with the FTC challenging the adequacy of the company's substantiation for certain weight loss and maintenance claims, as well as representations relating to the pricing of its program. Jenny Craig previously filed an answer to the Commission's complaint denying the charges. The FTC has added allegations to the original complaint that Jenny Craig represented without adequate supporting evidence that nine out of 10 customers would recommend the Jenny Craig program to a friend, and represented that it had surveys backing up that claim, when it did not.
In addition, the FTC in July 1995 announced a settlement with J. Walter Thompson USA, Inc. over its role in the challenged Jenny Craig advertising relating to the above survey claim. Since 1927, the FTC has brought nearly 140 enforcement actions against companies selling weight loss products and programs.
According to a free FTC brochure, "Skinny on Dieting," about 8 million Americans enroll in some kind of structured weight-loss program each year, and only about 5 percent of the 50 million Americans who go on diets in a given year will keep off any weight they lose. The brochure lists a variety of claims made by advertisers of diet programs and products in recent years, and offers some facts that can help consumers analyze them. Many health experts recommend a combination of reduced calories and increased exercise as the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off, with a goal of losing about a pound a week, the brochure states. "Skinny on Dieting" is on the FTC's website at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/health/diets.htm and also is available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch at the address below.
Under the proposed consent agreement announced today for a public comment period before the Commission determines whether to make it final, Jenny Craig has agreed not to misrepresent the performance, safety or customer endorsement of any weight-loss program, and to have scientific data to back up future claims about weight loss and maintenance. In addition, the settlement sets out the standards for the type of evidence that would be required to support various maintenance claims. For instance, claims that weight loss is maintained long term must be based on evidence of customers followed for at least two years.
In addition, maintenance success claims in most ads would have to be accompanied by various clear and prominent disclosures, including the statement, "For many dieters, weight loss is temporary," as well as disclosures about the average weight-loss maintenance for consumers on the Jenny Craig program. Any results claimed in consumer testimonials would have to be representative of those that customers generally achieve, unless the ad clearly and prominently discloses either the generally expected results or a statement such as: "This result is not typical. You may be less successful."
Jenny Craig advertisements that include price representations would be required to disclose either all mandatory fees or a list of the additional products or services consumers will need to purchase. If a consumer inquires by telephone about an advertised price, Jenny Craig would be required to disclose the amount of all mandatory fees in that conversation.
In addition, Jenny Craig would be required to disclose, in appropriate situations, that failure to eat all the required food or recommended calories in the program may put dieters' health at risk. And finally, the respondents would be prohibited from misrepresenting the results or existence of any test or study.
The Commission vote to announce the settlement for public comment was 4-0, with Chairman Robert Pitofsky recused. A notice regarding the settlement will be published in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 60 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $11,000.
Copies of the amended complaint, proposed consent agreement, an analysis to assist the public in commenting and the "Skinny on Dieting" brochure are available from the FTC's web site at www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. Consent agreements subject to public comment also are available by calling 202-326-3627. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC File No. D 9260)