FTC Settles Charges Of Deceptive Advertising Against Four Weight-Loss Marketers For $34M

Put down that shaker of Sensa. Those promises of shedding 30 pounds while eating french fries and sitting on the couch aren’t real. We know — who would have thunk it? Well, the Federal Trade Commission for starters, which announced today that four marketers of fad weight loss products settled FTC charges on deceptive advertising for $34 million.

Operation Failed Resolution recovered approximately $34 million for customers, said Jessica Rich, director of consumer protection for the FTC.

Sensa accounts for the largest chunk of change being returned by paying $26.5 million to settle charges, the FTC explained in a conference call and press release today.

Rich said she could not say how much the other marketers were forking over.

An FTC survey, released last year, found that in 2011 there were 5.1 million instances of fraud related to weight-loss products.

Charges of deceptive advertising announced Tuesday were against the following marketers:

Sensa: The FTC charges they deceived customers with unfounded weight-loss claims and misleading endorsements.

L’Occitane: The company claims that its skin cream would slim users’ bodies.

HCG Diet Direct: Marketers of an unproven human hormone that was touted for more than half a century as a weight-loss treatment.

LeanSpa, LLC: An operation that promotes acai berry and “colon cleanse” weight loss supplements through fake news websites. The charges resulted in a partial settlement of temporarily halting the promotion of the product.

“Resolutions to lose weight are easy to make but hard to keep,” Rich said. “And the chances of being successful just by sprinkling something on your food, rubbing cream on your thighs, or using a supplement are slim to none. The science just isn’t there.”

It’s important to note the suits change the way marketers can advertise the weight-loss products, not that the products will disappear.

The FTC also announced Tuesday updated guidance for media outlets on spotting false weight-loss claims in advertising.

Creatively, the FTC also created a “teaser website” designed to reach people searching for weight-loss products online.

The website, similar to one Massachusetts unveiled in 2012, appears as an advertisement for “FatFoe”. When consumers try to order the product, which offers weight loss with no diet or exercise, they learn the ad is a warning from the FTC about diet rip-offs.

Sensa and Three Other Marketers of Fad Weight-Loss Products Settle FTC Charges in Crackdown on Deceptive Advertising [FTC.gov]