Dubbed "Operation Failed Resolution," the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on companies that make either misleading or patently false claims about their weight-loss products.
The first to feel the sting were the marketers of Sensa, which promise customers that all you have to do is "sprinkle, eat and lose weight."
The Federal Trade Commission accused the company of deceiving consumers with unfounded weight-loss claims. Sensa has agreed to pay $26.5 million to settle the claims against them. The FTC also accused Sensa, which is partly owned by California doctor Alan Hirsch, of failing to disclose that some of the people endorsing Sensa in its marketing materials were paid by the company.
In addition, the feds accused Dr. Hirsch of not disclosing that he himself conducted the two studies cited in the ads and of giving expert endorsements that were not supported by scientific evidence.
Also in trouble is the French company L'Occitane. The FTC accuses it of making deceptive claims about a weight-loss skin cream. A 2012 ad campaign claimed that by applying the $44 cream you would lose 1.3 inches in just four weeks. The company has agreed to return $450,000 to customers.
The FTC also filed suit against the makers of HCG Diet Direct Drops. The drops were marketed as a liquid hormone produced by the human placenta which, if ingested, would cause people to rapidly lose weight. Customers were instructed to place a drop of the hormone under their tongue before eating a meal. The company said it sold more than $3 million worth of the drops, charging customers $35 for a seven-day supply. The FTC said there was no scientific evidence to support the company's weight-loss claims. And despite the company's claims, the product was not approved by the FDA.
Tips from the FTC on how to spot a company making false weight-loss promises:
The 7 Gut Check Claims
To make it easier to spot false weight loss representations, the FTC has compiled a list of seven statements (gut check claims) mentioned in ads that experts say simply can't be true. See below:
It causes weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise
Causes substantial weight loss no matter what or how much the consumer eats
Causes permanent weight loss even after the consumer stops using product
Blocks the absorption of fat or calories to enable consumers to lose substantial weight
Safely enables consumers to lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks
Causes substantial weight loss for all users; or causes substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin