Sellers making questionable weight-loss and fat-loss claims to peddle skin gels and diet supplements will pay $3 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that their deceptive claims violated federal law. The settlement bars unsubstantiated claims in the future and bars the marketers from misrepresenting studies or endorsements.
According to the FTC’s Complaint, the ads for three skin gels – Tummy Flattening Gel, Cutting Gel, and Dermalin APg – claimed they melted away fat wherever applied, including a user’s thighs, tummy, even a double chin. Ads for Leptoprin and Anorex, two ephedrine pills, claimed they caused weight loss of more than 20 pounds. The advertising for PediaLean fiber pills for overweight children claimed the pills caused substantial weight loss. The FTC alleged the marketers lacked a reasonable basis to back up these claims. In addition, the FTC alleged the ads falsely claimed that clinical testing proved those claims for four of the challenged products and misrepresented their spokesperson as a medical doctor.
Ads for the products ran on television, in magazines, and in tabloids. The products were also marketed on the Internet. Leptoprin was heavily advertised through short-form television infomercials. Ads for the skin gels ran in Cosmopolitan, Muscle and Fitness, and other magazines. PediaLean was advertised in tabloids and magazines such as The Enquirer and Redbook.
Under the FTC’s final order, the primary company, Basic Research, will pay $3 million on behalf of all six companies and three individuals charged in this case: Basic Research, LLC, A.G. Waterhouse, LLC, Klein Becker USA, LLC, NutraSport, LLC, Sovage Dermalogic Laboratories, LLC, BAN LLC, Dennis Gay, Daniel B. Mowrey (also doing business as American Phytotherapy Research Laboratory) and Mitchell K. Friedlander.
The FTC’s final order prohibits the marketers from making unsubstantiated claims that Dermalin-APg, Cutting Gel, Tummy Flattening Gel, Anorex, Leptoprin, PediaLean, or any substantially similar product causes weight loss or fat loss and misrepresenting the effects of a product through the use of product names or endorsements. When they make weight-loss or fat-loss claims for any products, they must rely on competent and reliable scientific evidence. The marketers must also have substantiation to support representations that any food, drug, or dietary supplement has an effect on any disease, on the structure or function of the human body, or other health or weight-loss benefits. They cannot misrepresent any test, study, or research, or the profession, expertise, training, education, experience, or qualifications of any endorser.
The Commission vote to accept the consent agreement, subject to public comment, was 5-0. The FTC will publish an announcement regarding the agreement in the Federal Register. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and ending Monday, June 12, 2006. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, Room H-135, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. The FTC requests that any comment filed in paper form be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions.
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 complaint, proposed consent agreement, and an analysis of the agreement to aid in public comment 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 thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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