The Appeals Process
An administrative law judge has ordered the marketers of the “Ab Force” belt to stop making claims that the Ab Force causes or promotes weight, inches, or fat loss; causes or promotes well-defined abdominal muscles; or is an effective alternative to regular exercise. In an initial decision announced today, Chief Administrative Law Judge Stephen J. McGuire upheld a Federal Trade Commission complaint charging Telebrands Corporation, TV Savings LLC, and their owner, Ajit Khubani, with unfair or deceptive acts or practices and false advertising.
The Fairfield, New Jersey-based operation marketed and sold the Ab Force ab belt -- an electronic muscle stimulation (EMS) device that causes the muscles to contract involuntarily. The administrative complaint issued by the FTC in 2003 alleged that the respondents’ infomercials falsely claimed that users could achieve weight loss, fat loss, and inch loss, get well-developed abs, and that use of the belt is an effective equivalent to regular exercise.
The ruling announced today follows an administrative trial to resolve the charges in the administrative complaint. Judge McGuire concluded that the respondents’ advertisements were “likely to mislead consumers, acting reasonably under the circumstances, in a material respect.” Judge McGuire noted that the record indicated that the advertisements at issue made false and misleading claims that:
- Use of the Ab Force causes loss of weight, inches, or fat;
- Use of the Ab Force causes well-defined abdominal muscles; and
- Use of the Ab Force is an effective alternative to regular exercise.
Judge McGuire’s order would prohibit Telebrands and the other respondents from representing that the Ab Force or any substantially similar device causes or promotes loss of weight, inches, or fat, or well-defined abdominal muscles, or is an effective alternative to regular exercise, and from misrepresenting that any EMS device will have these effects. The order would also prohibit Telebrands -- in connection with the production, promotion, sale, or distribution of Ab Force, any other EMS device, or any device, product, service, or program promoting the efficacy of or pertaining to health, weight loss, fitness, or exercise -- from making any representation about weight, inch, or fat loss; muscle definition; exercise benefits; or the health benefits, safety, or efficacy of any such product, service, or program without possessing and relying upon competent and reliable scientific evidence that substantiates the representation.
Judge McGuire did not grant the request of Complaint Counsel to require Khubani to obtain a performance bond before engaging in any manufacturing, labeling, advertising, promotion, sale, or distribution of any device, citing the absence of “any case law which would support the imposition of such a bond as a remedy in a litigated Part III matter.”
The Judge’s initial decision is subject to review by the full Commission, either on its own motion or at the request of either party. The initial decision will become the decision of the Commission 30 days after it is served on the parties or 30 days after the filing of a timely notice of appeal (whichever is later), unless: (1) a party filing a notice of appeal perfects an appeal by the timely filing of an appeal brief; or (2) the Commission takes certain other actions detailed in its Rules.
Copies of the initial decision by the ALJ 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.
(FTC Docket No. 9313)
Office of Public Affairs