(January 4, 2007) — The Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held a press conference this morning to announce that the agency has obtained settlements with four marketers of dietary supplements sold for weight loss. FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras stated that a total of $25 million dollars has been obtained from the four companies, much of which will be used for consumer redress.
The four targeted products were identified as Xenedrine EFX, CortiSlim, TrimSpa Completely Ephedra Free X32, and Bayer One-A-Day WeightSmart. In each case, according to FTC, the marketers had made unsubstantiated claims that their product would lead to rapid and substantial weight loss or were effective without any attention to a healthy diet or adequate exercise. Each of the settlements contains language to clarify that the marketer does not admit, or in fact denies, the allegations, but has nevertheless consented to the agreement stipulated in the settlement. In addition, each of the companies has agreed to refrain from making any unsubstantiated claims for their products in the future.
The largest overall settlement is with CortiSlim (ingredients: magnolia bark extract; green tea extract; bitter orange peel extract; etc). The company, its principals, and related firms have agreed to disgorge $12 million in cash and assets. The agreement with Xenedrine EFX (green tea extract; yerba maté; bitter orange; etc) stipulates that the company will pay at least $8 million, and as much as $12.8 million. The funds obtained from the settlements with these two companies will be used for consumer redress.
The settlement with Bayer for their One-A-Day WeightSmart product (green tea extract, standardized to 32 mg ECGC; etc.) includes a civil penalty of $3.2 million, which Majoras identified as the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the FTC. A central part of the agency’s complaint against Bayer was that the company had violated the terms of an earlier consent decree, entered into in 1991 by Bayer’s predecessor, Miles, Inc.
In the final case, TrimSpa agreed to pay to FTC the sum of $1.5 million. Because this settlement was in the form of a consent agreement, it will be subject to public comment until February 5, 2007.
Majoras repeated earlier suggestions that the media can play a useful supporting role in curbing unproven claims for weight loss products by refusing to accept ads for the claims that FTC has previously identified as "red flags." These include:
- Lose two pounds or more per week without dieting or exercise.
- Weight loss will be substantial, no matter what or how much the user eats.
- Weight loss will be permanent, even after discontinuing use of the product.
- Product blocks the absorption of fat or calories.
- Lose more than three pounds per week for a period of more than four weeks.
- The product causes substantial weight loss for all users.
- Products worn on the body or rubbed into the skin cause substantial weight loss.
Majoras also called on individual consumers to take responsibility for maintaining a healthy diet and increasing physical exercise. She concluded her prepared remarks by stating, "You’re not going to find weight loss in a bottle of pills."
FTC’s press release, as well as links to each of the settlements, can be found at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2007/01/weightloss.htm.