New Year's Weight Loss Scam
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Need to lose 30 pounds? Don't bother sprinkling anything on your food. A recent investigation by the FTC has resulted in a $26.5 million fine against weight loss additive Sensa Products, LLC for deceptive marketing, a company which claims to sell a fat burning powder. The company claims that its product, a condiment which consumers sprinkle on top of any food, can help users lose weight without any further diet, discipline or exercise. A miracle drug for sure, except that according to government officials it's simple snake oil.
"It's easy to see that there are a lot of deceptive claims made about weight loss products," wrote FTC spokeswoman Betsy Lordan in an e-mail. "The FTC has brought many cases over the years against marketers for deceptively advertising patches, pills, herbs, ab belts, and all sorts of other gimmicks that supposedly could allow customers to lose weight without dieting and exercise."
According to commission spokespeople, no science or research backs up the idea of miracle cures for weight loss. Although companies like Sensa Products, LLC claim otherwise, their generally deceptive science typically factors into the charges against them.
"The main issues of the case involved unsubstantiated claims that Sensa could cause substantial weight loss without diet or exercise," said FTC attorney Karen Mandel. "Related claims had to do with undisclosed compensation to consumers, who were represented as satisfied users of the product, and Dr. [Alan] Hirsch's expert endorsement of Sensa and provision of other services that enabled the companies to market Sensa deceptively."
In other words, all of those satisfied customers and medical reviews are simply more paid advertising.
From the same investigation the FTC filed three additional claims for deceptive advertising of weight loss products against L'Occitane, HCG Diet Direct and LeanSpa, LLC. Each sold various products with false claims that they would help users lose weight and trim fat despite lack of any evidence. L'Occitane, in particular, attempted to convince consumers that it sold a skin cream which "instantly melts into the skin to help visibly refine and sculpt the silhouette" and creates "a firmer, smoother body." ( From ad copy .)
According to Mandel, claims like this have particularly a vicious impact by preying on consumers who may actually need help.
"[I]t gives them the false hope that they can lose weight without making any adjustments to their lifestylei.e., diet and exercise), which only postpones the inevitable, making those changesor makes their situation vis-à-vis their weight worse," Mandel said.
The four companies will pay a combined $34 million settlement to the FTC, with Sensa liable for the largest portion. All four companies are also banned from marketing any further products unless they can present documented substantiation for their claims.