FTC target deceptive advertisers of weight-loss products

On January 7, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a law enforcement initiative to stop deceptive advertising claims to relating to weight- loss products, from food additives and skin cream to dietary supplements.

Recognizing that Americans spend billions of dollars every year on supplements, foods and devices in hopes of improving their health and fitness, the FTC in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigate the truthfulness and veracity of advertising claims to combat “misleading claims for products promoting easy weight loss and slimmer bodies.”

With the announcement of its latest enforcement initiative “Operation Failed Resolution” the FTC also announced  charges against four companies that deceived consumers with unfounded weight-loss claims and misleading endorsements:

  • Sensa, which claimed “sprinkle, eat, and lose weight”, get “a gym body without going to the gym.” Clinically proven.”  To settle charges that Sensa deceived consumers with unfounded weight-loss claims and misleading endorsements, to company will pay $26.5 million. The FTC will make these funds available for refunds to consumers who bought Sensa.
  • LeanSpa, LLC, which deceptively promoted acai berry and “colon cleanse” weight-loss supplements through fake news websites has entered into a partial settlement with the FTC requiring defendants tosurrender assets totalling an estimated $7.3 million.
  • L’Occitane, which claimed that its skin cream would slim users’ bodies but had no science to back up that claim, resulting in a judgement against L’Occitane for $450,000.
  • HCG Diet Direct, which marketed an unproven human hormone that has been touted by hucksters for more than half a century as a weight-loss treatment.

In total, the weight-loss marketers will pay approximately $34 million for consumer redress.

These cases reinforce the importance of claim substantiation and the need to ensure that advertisements are “truthful and not misleading.”  It is critical for marketers to ensure they have adequate substantiation for all claims, prior to using a claim to market a new product.  The importance of this requirement is often overlooked by marketers rushed to introduce a new product to the market.

Our FDA and FTC attorneys help marketers bringing new dietary supplements, foods, and cosmetics to market by reviewing all labeling claims, literature, websites, infomercials, and other forms of marketing.  We help protect our clients from unnecessary enforcement actions by counseling our clients through the principles of substantiation under the FTC’s rules and regulations, as well as appropriateness of claims under the FDA’s rules and regulations.

To speak with an experienced FTC attorney, please contact Ann Marie Gaitan, Esq. at 305.443.8900 or [email protected].