The Federal Trade Commission has charged Kevin Trudeau with violating a court order by allegedly misrepresenting the contents of his book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About,” in several infomercials. During the ads, Trudeau claims that the weight loss plan outlined in the book is easy to do, can be done at home, and ultimately allows readers to eat whatever they want. However, when consumers purchase the book, they find it describes a complex, grueling plan that requires severe dieting, daily injections of a prescription drug that consumers cannot easily get, and lifelong dietary restrictions. In a 2004 order settling FTC charges that he had falsely claimed that his calcium product could cure cancer and other serious diseases, and that a purported analgesic called Biotape could permanently cure or relieve severe pain, Trudeau was banned from using infomercials to sell any product, service, or program. The ban contained a narrow exemption for infomercials for books and other publications, but specifically required that Trudeau not misrepresent the content of the books. The FTC is now charging that he violated that narrow exemption.
Kevin Trudeau is a well-known marketer who has appeared in or produced more than 100 infomercials. To sell his newest book, which outlines a weight-loss plan, he appeared in three infomercials, which were widely disseminated. During the ads, Trudeau describes the weight-loss plan that the book is about, stating that:
“...it’s easy to do, you can do it at home...”
“I can attest, it was the easiest, simplest, most effective thing I’ve ever done.”
“And when you’re done with the protocol, eat whatever you want and you don’t gain the weight back.”
“I can eat whatever I want now, anything and as much as I want any time I want. No restrictions now. And the weight’s not coming back. You don’t gain the weight back.”
According to the FTC, when consumers buy and read the book, they find it actually describes a complicated, expensive system involving daily injections, specialized cleanses and supplements, and severe food restrictions, followed by a “fourth phase” of the protocol, which requires dietary restrictions and never ends. The FTC alleged that Trudeau deceptively claimed that the book establishes a weight-loss protocol that is “easy” to follow and that once the protocol ends, consumers can eat what they want without regaining weight.
In court documents, the FTC pointed out that one required phase of the protocol requires that consumers get daily injections of a prescription drug that is not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for weight loss. To obtain the drug, a consumer would need to either go overseas, or find a doctor in the U.S. who will prescribe the drug for off-label use. The injections must be intramuscular, and Trudeau even instructs the dieter to do the injections under the care of a licensed physician. Besides the injections, this phase also requires a 500 calorie/day diet for 21 to 45 days, and the consumer cannot use any medicines, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, most cosmetics, and no creams, lotions, or moisturizers.
During the required third phase, the consumer can eat as much as they want for 21 days, but the foods must be only 100% organic, with no sweeteners (natural or artificial), no starches (bread, pasta, potatoes, white flour, etc.), no nitrites, and no trans fats. In addition, the book strongly recommends that consumers get massages, take saunas often, take homeopathic human growth hormone, and limit their exposure to air conditioning and fluorescent lighting.
The “highly recommended” first phase includes getting 15 “colonics” from a licensed colon therapist during a 30-day period, walking outside for one continuous hour each day, taking saunas as often as possible, eating six times a day, eating only organic meat and dairy, and eating 100 grams of organic meat right before bed.
Finally, the FTC’s court documents state that the protocol is never actually completed. Consumers must follow the fourth phase of the protocol for the rest of their lives, with severe dietary prohibitions, including: no “brand name” food; no fast food, regional, or national chain restaurants; no food that is not 100% organic; no super highly refined sugars; no artificial sweeteners; no trans fats; no monosodium glutamate; no food with nitrites; no meat, poultry, or dairy that is not 100% organic; no farm-raised fish; and no food cooked in a microwave.
The FTC first sued Trudeau in 1998, alleging that he made false and unsubstantiated claims for hair growth, memory, and weight loss products sold through infomercials. In 2003, the FTC challenged Trudeau’s marketing of Coral Calcium Supreme and Biotape, a purported pain-relief product. To settle the FTC’s charges, in 2004 Trudeau paid $2 million and agreed to a court order banning him from infomercials, with a narrow exemption for infomercials for books and other publications that specifically required that Trudeau not misrepresent the contents of the books or publications. The contempt action announced today alleges that Trudeau violated that court order by deceptively claiming in his infomercials that the book being advertised establishes a weight-loss protocol that is “easy” to follow, and that once the protocol ends, consumers can eat what they want without regaining weight.
The contempt action was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
The FTC works for the consumer 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, click http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.shtm or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. For free information on a variety of consumer topics, click http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm.