Sketchy Weight Loss Products Finally Get Their Due

Questionable products are nothing new, but stronger actions by the FTC are.

No matter how ludicrous the claims, people have always had a soft spot for the weight loss product. This is nothing new. In the second century, Soranus of Ephesus prescribed laxatives and purgatives for curing obesity. Weight loss experts also recommended this schedule of purging in the 1920s and by those with eating disorders even today.

This history of centuries of dubious claims might be screeching to a halt, at least in the U.S. For the last decade, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has ratcheted up campaigns of faster, more in-depth investigations into these snake oil salesmen. The penalties are coming harder and faster.

Operation Failed Resolution 

Operation Failed Resolution has joined 2004’s Operation Big Fat Lie and 1997’s Operation Waistline. The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection states that phony weight-loss products amounted to 13 percent of the fraud claims submitted in 2011. That is more than double any of the other categories of fraud. The commission is determined to stop unscrupulous operators from fleecing consumers. On Jan. 7, 2014, the FTC brought its latest announcements of fines against four of the companies who fraudulently advertised spurious weight loss claims.

Sensa Products

Psychiatrist and neurologist Dr. Alan Hirsch, the creator of Sensa Products, has long espoused the theory that aromas stimulated weight loss, athletic prowess and sexual arousal. Sensa is made from maltodextrin (a digestible carbohydrate), tricalcium phosphate (also known as TSP or bone ash), silica (sand) and flavoring. Sensa Products claimed that by sprinkling this product on food, the user could lose weight without dieting or exercise. The FTC has reached a settlement of $26.5 million with the Sensa Weight Loss System marketers after accusations of false and deceptive advertising practices.

diet productsHCG Diet Direct

These homeopathic drops claimed to actually require high-calorie meals to be eaten and heavy exercises are discouraged in order to work in the first days. From then on, a diet of about 500 calories per day is recommended. The product is comprised of a form of the hormone produced by the human placenta. The FTC filed a penalty of $3.2 million after it found that the weight loss buyers have been sold a bill of goods about this hormone for decades. It was reported that the company made about $3 million from its HCG product line.

L’Occitane

This retailer has more than 2,000 “boutiques” around the world. The FTC found that they marketed their Almond Beautiful Shape and Almond Shaping Delight deceptively. The company charged from $44 to $48 for 7 ounces and claimed the creams could take inches from the user’s body in 4 weeks. Because of the FTC investigation, the company said it would be more rigorous in their operations and policies. They agreed to refund their customers $450,000.

LeanSpa

This company and two of its executives were charged with using phony news websites to flog Acai berry and colon cleansing products. The purchasers were charged recurring monthly fees after they enrolled in a supposed free trial.

The FTC has included a warning to media companies when announcing the results of Operation Failed Resolution: stop taking advertising dollars for phony weight loss products.