Agency Continues to Pursue Deceptive Claims on the Internet
Fitness Quest, Inc., based in Canton, Ohio, and its president, Robert R. Schnabel, Jr., have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they made numerous unsubstantiated claims in advertisements for their exercise equipment and weight-loss products. The products at issue are three exercise gliders -- Gazelle Glider, SkyTrek, and Airofit and two abdominal devices -- Abs Only Machine and Ab Isolator. Fitness Quest sold its products directly to consumers through infomercials and on the Internet and also through retailers. The FTC alleged that Fitness Quest made unsubstantiated claims that, under ordinary use, their exercise gliders would allow consumers to burn up to 1,000 calories an hour or, as in their ads for the abdominal exercisers, that the Ab Isolator and Abs Only Machine are twice as effective as regular sit-ups. The settlement would prohibit the respondents from making a variety of weight- loss and related claims for their exercise equipment and weight-loss products without competent and reliable evidence.
According to the FTC's complaint detailing the charges, the ads at issue contained numerous statements relating to weight-loss and weight maintenance experiences of owners of Fitness Quest's various pieces of equipment. The complaint alleges that the respondents, through statements contained in their advertisements and promotional materials for the Airofit, the SkyTrek, and the Gazelle Glider, made unsubstantiated claims that under ordinary use, each of these devices would:
- burn calories at a rate of up to 1,000 per hour;
- burn three time more calories than burned while walking; and
- burn nearly twice the calories than burned while cross-country skiing .
The respondents also allegedly claimed without substantiation that under ordinary use the Arofit burns nearly twice the calories than burned while exercising on a treadmill, burns significantly more calories than are burned while swimming, bicycling or doing step aerobics, and causes significant weight loss.
In addition, the complaint alleges that the respondents' ads for their abdominal exercise devices also contained numerous unsubstantiated claims such as, both the Ab Isolator and the Abs Only Machine are twice as effective as regular sit-ups; and the Ab Isolator is more effective than other abdominal exercise devices; and if used three minutes a day would result in significantly reduced weight loss in 30 days. The complaint further alleges that the respondents made unsubstantiated claims that the testimonials of consumers appearing in their ads for the Airofit and the Ab Isolator reflected the typical or ordinary experience of the users.
The proposed settlement of the charges, announced today for public comment, would prohibit Fitness Quest and Schnabel from making any representations about the benefits, performance or efficacy of any exercise equipment or weight-loss product, unless they have competent and reliable evidence to substantiate them. When appropriate, the evidence must be scientific. Specifically, the respondents would be prohibited from making weight-loss claims, calorie-burning claims, fat-burning claims, and spot-reduction claims for their exercise equipment and weight-loss products without adequate substantiation and would be prohibited from making weight-loss or spot reduction claims for its abdominal devices without adequate substantiation.
In addition, Fitness Quest and Schnabel would be subject to order provisions requiring that testimonials or endorsements in their advertising materials either represent the typical or ordinary experience of consumers, or include disclosures of what the generally expected results would be or some statement making clear that consumers should not expect to experience similar results.
Finally, the proposed order contains various reporting requirements that would assist the FTC in monitoring the respondents' compliance.
The FTC has published a brochure for consumers titled "The Facts About Weight Loss Products and Programs," that offers tips and lists phrases and terms to watch out for in advertising. In addition, the FTC has two other publications: "Pump Fiction: Tips for Buying Exercise Equipment," and a questionnaire, "What's Your Exercise I.Q," that offer tips to consider and questions to ask before purchasing exercise equipment.
The Commission vote to accept the proposed consent agreement for public comment was 4-0.
A summary of the proposed consent agreement 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, 600 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 complaint, proposed consent agreement and an analysis of the proposed order to assist the public in commenting 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; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD 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. 982 3633)
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection
Bureau of Consumer Protection