Every new year, a significant number of Americans resolve to trim off weight, lose love-handles, and tone up less-than-firm trouble spots. Although doctors have said for years that there is no shortcut to the long and annoying process of losing weight by cutting calories and increasing activity, there has never been a shortage of wacky products, pills, and miracle cures promising to shave off weight overnight, and 2014 was no exception.
In case you are one of the millions of people looking to get fit in 2015, here are some of the top weight loss scams of that should be avoided:
#1 – Hydroxycut. After years, the makers of Hydroxycut reached a settlement for class action claims alleging that they misrepresented their products as being clinically safe for weight loss. The manufacturers (Kerr Investment Holding Corp. f/k/a Iovate Health Sciences Group Inc., Iovate Health Sciences Inc., and Iovate Health Sciences USA Inc.) denied the allegations but agreed to pay $14 million to consumers to settle the claims. The affected products included, Hydroxycut Regular Rapid Release Caplets, Hydroxycut Caffeine-Free Rapid Release Caplets, Hydroxycut Hardcore Liquid Caplets, Hydroxycut Max Liquid Caplets, Hydroxycut Regular Drink Packets, Hydroxycut Caffeine-Free Drink Packets, Hydroxycut Hardcore Drink Packets (Ignition Stix), Hydroxycut Max Drink Packets, Hydroxycut Liquid Shots, Hydroxycut Hardcore RTDs (Ready-to-Drink), Hydroxycut Max Aqua Shed, Hydroxycut 24, Hydroxycut Carb Control, and Hydroxycut Natural.
#2 – Sensa. Sensa was a heavily-promoted weight loss product that lured dieters in with the promise that they simply needed to “sprinkle, eat and lose weight.” Allegedly, the diet product would make consumers feel fuller faster, causing them to eat smaller portions of food. Sensa Products LLC reportedly charges $59 plus shipping and handling for a one-month supply of the powder. Sensa was marketed through a variety of television, radio, Internet and print advertisements. According to the FTC’s Sensa lawsuit, U.S. sales of Sensa topped $364 million between 2008 and 2012. The FTC also charged Sensa with failing to disclose the fact that some consumers were compensated for their endorsements of Sensa. In some instances, compensation included payments of $1,000 or $5,000, and trips to Los Angeles. The FTC also alleged that Dr. Hirsch – who conducted two of the studies cited in the ads and wrote a promotional book about Sensa – gave expert endorsements that were not supported by scientific evidence, and provided the means for the other defendants to deceive consumers. The order imposes a $46.5 million judgment against the companies, and requires them to pay $26.5 million, with the rest suspended due to their inability to pay.
#3 –HCG. HCG Diet Direct reportedly marketed homeopathic HCG drops, falsely promising that they would cause consumers to drop a significant amount of weight quickly. The defendants sold HCG Diet Direct Drops, a diluted liquid form of human chorionic gonadotropin – a hormone produced by the human placenta that has been falsely promoted for decades as a weight-loss supplement. The company charged $35 for a week’s supply or $200 for a 40-day supply of the HCG Diet Direct Drops. Sales of the weight loss drops reportedly topped $3 million from 2009 to 2012. In advertisements on YouTube video and in statements and testimonial videos posted on the company website, the company claimed that consumers would rapidly lose substantial amounts of weight (up to one pound a day) by placing a highly diluted concentration of homeopathic HCG solution under their tongues before meals and adhering to a very low calorie diet. According to the FTC, the company and its director also made several other false and unsupported claims, including that the product was FDA approved, and failed to disclose that endorsers appearing in some of its advertisements were compensated, or were related to a company employee or officer. The company charged approximately $35 for a 7-day supply or $200 for a 40-day supply of their HCG Diet Direct Drops, with sales totaling more than $3 million – mostly between January 1, 2009, and late 2012.
#4 –Green Coffee Extract. Through wide promotion by Dr. Oz, Applie d Food Sciences (AFS), which offers the all-natural bulk extract under the GCA® trademark, produced and marketed “Green Coffee Extract” pills, claiming that users would drop weight fast. AFS agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the company used results of a flawed study to support baseless weight-loss claims about the product. In the FTC complaint, the AFS study was depicted as so “seriously flawed” that no reliable conclusions could be drawn from it. FTC noted that the study was “touted” on the Dr. Oz Show and deceived consumers. FTC’s settlement with AFS requires the company to pay the $3.5-million fine and to have scientific substantiation for any future weight-loss claims it makes, including at least two adequate and well-controlled human clinical tests.
#5 – LeanSpa Acai Berry. FTC charged the principal of LeanSpa LLC with using fake news websites to promote its acai berry and colon cleansing weight-loss products, and using deceptive weight loss claims to convince consumers to buy the products. According to the FTC, the company also offered “free” trials to consumers who paid all shipping and handling fees. Some consumers reportedly ended up paying as much as $79.99 for the “free” trial and for recurring monthly shipments of the products that were difficult to cancel. In December 2011, the FTC and the state of Connecticut shut down the operation, charging it with using fake news websites to promote acai berry and “colon cleanse” weight-loss products, making deceptive weight-loss claims, and telling consumers they could receive free trials of the products by paying the nominal cost of shipping and handling. The FTC alleges that many consumers ended up paying $79.99 for the trial, and for recurring monthly shipments of products that were hard to cancel.
#6 – L’Occitane Skin Shaping Cream. The FTC also announced charges against L’Occitane, which claimed that its skin cream could slim users’ bodies. L’Occitane launched an advertising campaign in 2012 claiming that Almond Beautiful Shape could “trim 1.3 inches in just 4 weeks,” and that it was a “cellulite fighter;” and that Almond Shaping Delight has “clinically proven slimming effectiveness,” and will “visibly refine and reshape the silhouette, to resculpt and tone the body contours.” L’Occitane’s ads also claimed that both products could produce a “noticeably slimmer, firmer you … (in just 4 weeks!).” The FTC found that L’Occitane Inc. made deceptive claims that its Almond Beautiful Shape and Almond Shaping Delight skin creams were not clinically proven to have body-slimming capabilities. These products cost between $44 and $48 for just seven ounces of the product. L’Occitane will pay $450,000 in settlement of the charges.
#7 HealtheTrim. The FTC settled charges that the former CEO and co-founder of an Atlanta-based marketing operation and his company deceived consumers with promises that their Healthe Trim supplements would burn fat, increase metabolism, and suppress appetite. Advertisements for Healthe Trim, which used the tagline “Get High School Skinny,” relied heavily on consumer testimonials that portrayed losing weight as easy. In settling the FTC’s charges, the CEO John Dwyer agreed to be banned from the weight-loss industry, and was prohibited from manufacturing or marketing weight-loss products. HealthyLife Sciences was banned from making any of the seven weight-loss claims that the FTC has publicly advised are scientifically infeasible, with respect to any supplement, over-the-counter drug, or any product rubbed into or worn on the skin. The settlement with HealthyLife Sciences also requires that the company have two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trials to support other claims relating to weight loss, increased metabolism, or appetite suppression.
#8 – iPant Weight-Loss Underwear. Japan-based Wacoal Holdings Corp. reached a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to pay $1.3 million in refunds to buyers of its weight-loss underwear for women. The lingerie maker agreed to refund buyers of the iPant underwear after the FTC dismissed as scientifically groundless its claims that ingredients such as caffeine and vitamin E used in the product reduce cellulite. The FTC’s complaint against Norm Thompson Outfitters alleges the company deceptively advertised, marketed, and sold women’s undergarments infused with microencapsulated caffeine, retinol, and other ingredients, claiming the “shapewear” would slim and reshape the wearer’s body and reduce cellulite. The products, made with Lytess brand fabrics, were sold via mail order and on the company’s Norm Thompson Outfitters, Sahalie, Body Solutions and Body*Belle websites.
#9 – Lobster Slimming Cream. DERMAdoctor claimed its Shrinking Beauty cream, which cost $58 for a 5.5-ounce tube, would “improve the appearance of cellulite, smooth and tighten skin” and was “clinically proven to reduce measurements up to one inch in two weeks,’” the FTC said in a Dec. 23 release. The formula “simulates a lobster’s ability to shrink its body,” the company said in a June 2013 Health magazine ad. DERMAdoctor allegedly wrote on its website: “Learn from the lobster. This sea creature knows exactly how to shrink a size effortlessly without going on a diet. Our slimming and toning formula mirrors the ecdysteroid hormone lobsters produce to get skinny and wiggle free of their shells. Shrinking Beauty borrows from exotic botanical sources to mimic this oceanic wonder. A macronutrient complex further provides a proper ratio of protein, carbs and lipids for healthy, cellulite-free skin.” As of Dec. 29, the cream’s product description noted it’s “not intended for weight loss.”
AXIS Legal Counsel represents consumers in a variety of matters spanning multiple legal fields. AXIS represents clients in fraud claims, consumer deception, false advertising, deceptive trade practices, class actions, and other related matters. For information on retaining AXIS Legal Counsel for any contractual dispute, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (213) 403-0130 for a confidential consultation, or visit our or Individual Rights Portal for more information.
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