FTC sets up false weight loss claims website, pays out settlements for bogus joint care product

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images
Getty Images
The Federal Trade Commission has set up a new website that aims to help consumers sort though false weight loss claims. At the same time, FTC started paying restitution to consumers collected in a settlement involving a joint care product.

The new website​ includes a video that says, “The best way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories and be more active.” ​ It links to a text page that lists many of the deceptive practices used to advertise weight loss products.

Deceptive claims

Among the deceptive practices FTC detailed are:

  • Lose weight without dieting or exercising.
  • You don’t have to watch what you eat to lose weight. 
  • If you use this product, you’ll lose weight permanently.
  • You can lose 30 pounds in 30 days. 

The FTC document also detailed deceptive practices such as posting false news stories doctored to look like real reports from actual TV stations.  One famous case, alluded to in the FTC information, involved the use of photos of French TV news reporter Melissa Theuriau to hawk ‘investigations’ into the efficacy of açai weight loss products.  

The website also details the use of doctored before and after photos, testimonials posted by paid endorsers, and other deceptive practices.  Those include the use of phony ‘free trial’ offers, which in some cases have seen consumers billed for hundreds of dollars of unwanted products without being able to cancel the repeated shipments.

FTC noted that its fellow regulatory agency FDA has listed weight loss products as an area of special concern (to go along with muscle building supplements and sexual health products).  FDA has found numerous weight loss products sold as supplements that are adulterated with sibutramine or analogues thereof.  Sibutramine was a prescription weight loss drug that was taken off the market because of safety concerns.

Payments in joint care case

In addition to the unveiling of the new website, FTC also announced that it is mailing payments to consumers as part of the final settlement of a case brought against the marketers of a joint health product called Flexiprin.

FTC will mail a total of $113,000 to consumers, with an average payout of about $39.  The payments come as a result of a case filed in 2017 by FTC in conjunction with the Maine Attorney General’s office​.  The complaint charged XXL Impressions LLC, Jeffrey R. Powlowsky, J2 Response LLP, Justin Bumann, Justin Steinle, Synergixx, LLC, Charlie Fusco, Ronald Jahner, and Brazos Minshew with making false and misleading claims regarding FlexiPrin’s effectiveness for treating joint pain. The complaint also alleged the defendants failed to disclose that Jahner, who was presented as an objective medical expert, was paid a percentage of FlexiPrin sales.

The case resulted in a $6.6 million fine.

In 2018 FTC sent a total of $355,000 in refunds to consumers who had bought a phony memory claims product called CogniPrin​, which was also marketed by the defendants.

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